The brief was to create a new home for Maison Alaïa, the first outside their Paris base. The project was to embody the ethos of Azzedine; his philosophies, his processes and his approach to the business of fashion. The project was to be much more than a boutique; it would be a gallery space to exhibit the work of Azzedine Alaïa (as well as his artist and designer friends), an intimate space to receive private clients, and an event space to hold small shows and receptions.
The project stripped back elements of the building to reveal their raw beauty, while carefully balancing the museum-quality interior with both the architecture and the merchandise and artworks it displays.
THE DESIGN: EXTERNAL FRONTAGE
The existing building benefitted from a double height retail frontage which is quite unusual in the run of units on New Bond Street within which it is located. This is an arrangement we have retained and enhanced as part of our proposals. Framed by two columns with abstracted capitals, the shopfront is topped by a deeply rusticated arch with a projecting keystone. Following the historic precedent set by the existing building, the new shopfront is of an elegant and carefully proportioned timber construction with three principal zones: the main retail base, split into three arched openings, with central frameless doors giving access to the boutique. This is topped by a fascia on which the signage is mounted. The existing first floor window framing has been incorporated into the façade, with new low-iron glass to improve visibility into and out of the space. The retained granite façade has been cleaned and repaired, and a cantilevered flagpole added following the example set by other retail units in the street. This required detailed discussions with Westminster Planning in which the appropriateness of the design and quality of construction were of paramount importance.
THE DESIGN: INTERIOR RETAIL SPACE
Inside the store, the space-planning has been simplified with an existing accommodation stair removed and replaced with a dramatic steel spiral staircase with a clear glass balustrade that links all three principal retail levels, and is the focus as you walk into the store. A new glass passenger lift has been installed to the rear of the store to provide access to all four levels and integrates a bespoke lighting installation on all levels. Throughout the project lighting has been a primary consideration, with feature and display lighting all carefully considered and integrated into the proposals by Nulty+, including the lining of the lift shaft and dramatic sculptural pendants by Marc Newson. The finishes palette within the store is restrained to provide a neutral background against which the furniture, sculptural retail displays and, of course, the fashion itself is set. Services are exposed, but match the ceiling colour to reduce their visual prominence. Bursts of rich orange appear via the display elements, designed by Pierre Paulin in this colour exclusively for the store. This store forms part of a new generation of museum-style retail interiors in which the experience of the space, and the curation of elements of sculpture and merchandise within it, is a fundamental part of the retail strategy.
THE DESIGN: FABRICATION
The design of the shopfront façade took its inspiration from the elegant triple arched frontage which originally stood in place at the buildings conception in the 1930s. The new design sought to capture the same elegance, with its attention to detail and considered craftsmanship, in a contemporary manner. To achieve this a steel supporting frame was wrapped in malleable timber, which could then be shaped to create the sharp but fluid detailing. The feature staircase is the centrepiece of the Alaïa Boutique. The design creates an effortless sculptural transition through all levels of the Maison. Working in collaboration with Marzorati Ronchetti, the team created a monolithic helical structure, fabricated from patinated steel, which rises up 18 metres from the basement level. The staircase was then finished off with a bespoke curved glass balustrade and cast-in resin treads.
‘’Azzedine was able to transform a woman’s body into something special; to make you look great and still like a woman,” Naomi Campbell said after his death. “He captured the essence of femininity.” Now, his uniquely elegant perspective has been translated into the Maison’s first flagship outside of Paris.
Encompassing over 60 years of professional experience, Aukett Swanke has a network of over 400 staff in 13 studios across 6 countries: in the UK, Germany, Russia, Turkey, UAE, and Czech Republic. The studio’s expertise includes work in mixed-use, commercial office, hotel, retail, residential, education and healthcare sectors as well as workplace consulting.
The studio’s collegiate design culture enables architects and designers across the practice to share knowledge, balancing creativity and client budgets for projects of the highest quality at every scale.
Blending cross-sector experience with market leading R+D, we pride ourselves on establishing a creative collaboration with clients, project teams and major stakeholders. We firmly believe that a collective drive for excellence creates innovative, elegant and agile designs.