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Barneys Flagship Store In Downtown New York: Behind the Architect’s Design

The recent opening of Barneys flagship store in New York was accompanied by plenty of fanfare in the world of upscale architecture.

A sleek and stylish monochromatic layout and colour palette characterises the 50,000 square-foot establishment, which opened in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighbourhood on the site of its original 1923 counterpart.

Architect Steven Harris of AD100, a firm known primarily for minimalist residential creations, conceived and designed this oasis of retail tranquility.

Harris acknowledged that everyone wondered why Barneys had engaged a residential architect to design such a key location. He pointed that department stores are actually more intimate than people assume: shoppers eat lunch, have their hair done, take off and try on clothes in public, and other highly personal activities that are on a different level to other industrial and commercial buildings such as garages where you get your transmission overhauled.

He started the design process by visiting and assessing retail locations south of 34th Street. One of the first things that Harris discovered was that there were no escalators in any establishment except Bloomingdale’s in Soho. At first Barneys management was taken aback at the thought of leaving them out of the design, but soon acquiesced.

Instead of installing escalators to enable travel between levels, Harris designed a magnificent spiral flight of hairs that courses through the heart of the building, allowing patrons to see (and been) from one floor to another. The layout is a nod to the Andrée Putman staircase in the original store, as well as a promise of more interior magnificence to come.

Specialists in Structural Defects

The greatest challenge was one often encountered in residential projects: low ceilings. Harris dealt with that dilemma by basing his design on continuous space instead of individual, sectioned-off areas and rooms. In his opinion, the idea worked because it consisted of a succession of sliding panes, with the ceiling acting as yet another pane.

“That’s what gives it that certain kind of comfort,” he explained.

Other interior details were designed by Lucien Rees Roberts, such as the elegant bronze display stands, marbled shelves, and flawless white terrazzo flooring. Tables fashioned from granite are used to display leather goods and accessories, and hand-polished brass accents add an element of warmth to cool and smooth mirrored surfaces. The result is a shopping experience that is both welcoming and unquestionably upscale. In other words, a perfect amalgamation of Barneys New York’s illustrious past with its glowing future.


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