Holt Renfrew's Luxe Look
Janson Goldstein brings global style to Vancouver, British Columbia
Robyn Roehm Cannon -- Interior Design, 10/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
Step inside the three-story atrium of the glamorous Holt Renfrew in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, and it's instantly clear that you're not in your grandmother's department store. No, indeed. This glossy monument to high-end chic is a sparkling example of the work of Janson Goldstein, an architecture firm that has designed sumptuous signature interiors for the likes of Salvatore Ferragamo and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Established in 1837, Holt Renfrew claims an equally impressive pedigree. Canada's bastion of designer clothing and accessories has a flagship in Toronto and eight stores across Canada—there's no real national competition for the luxury lifestyle market. But president and CEO Caryn Lerner acknowledges that customers are becoming younger, more conscious of brands and trends, and increasingly international. "Luxury consumers know no borders," she says. "If they can't find it in their hometown, they will find it on their travels. We needed a store that gave our customer less of a reason to look elsewhere."
By moving from one end of the Pacific Centre mall to the other, the store was able to double sales-floor space to 110,000 square feet. This would allow longtime vendors to increase the breadth of their merchandise and new exclusive lines to join the mix. The timing was perfect for Holt Renfrew to break the mold of tradition and make a retail statement that would appeal to a broader audience.
"Design me a store that can compete on a global basis," Lerner told partners Mark Janson, Hal Goldstein, and Steven Scuro.
"Our response wasn't purely an architectural one," Janson offers. "Our starting point was to look at what's happening in Tokyo, Hong Kong, London, Paris, and New York." The most dramatic differences in Janson Goldstein's approach begin with the building's simple, highly transparent facade. "It's not the fortress that you generally find with stores of that scale," Goldstein says. "We wrapped the exterior in pillowed glass to communicate with the person walking down the street and connect to Vancouver's outdoor lifestyle. We brought the outdoors in."
Imagine: no more carpeted pathways between clothing racks dutifully lined up, one next to another. Gone are the boxed-in escalators, always going up when you want to go down. Instead, there's an intoxicating mix of light and movement.
Whether walking across the store's crystalline sky bridge, into women's contemporary on two, or through the colorful cosmetics and handbags, down on the main floor, all are beckoned toward the atrium—a series of stacked ellipses. "The atrium is the mixing zone," Scuro explains. "People entering anywhere can use it as a focal point." With each of the two main ellipses subtly oriented toward a different entry, the atrium magnificently resolves the problem of connecting retail spaces vertically.
To take full advantage of traffic patterns and maximize sales, the architects cleverly positioned key departments and designer boutiques at the tops and bottoms of the escalators that crisscross the atrium. "There's a very direct connection between a pleasurable shopping experience, knowing where you are going, and easily finding what you are looking for," Janson points out. Take the case of a representative male customer entering through the sky bridge: "He immediately finds the escalator down, makes a quick right, and shoots straight into the men's store. It's dead simple. Plus, while he's switching escalators on a women's floor, he lands right at watches." Bingo.
Playfully juxtaposed forms and materials soften the ultracontemporary tone of the architecture. Fumed-oak flooring sets off a steel-and-glass stairway leading to the roof terrace, where a café is slated to open. In the men's department, display fixtures combine polished stainless and Macassar ebony, both contrasted with the highly textural plaster wall finish. Honeycomb cubbies of polished aluminum sort out women's jeans, lending a sculptural feel to an important product category. "Contemporary fashion is like that. It can be denim or a little dress from Marc Jacobs—it's a bit of everything, with whimsy in the details," Janson says.
Lessons learned from the Vancouver experience? Holt Renfrew already plans to rework seven of its older stores and has hired Janson Goldstein to design a new Calgary location in the same mode. "We'll continue to have large atriums that create the heartbeat and circulation of the store and good sight lines into all the different departments," Lerner says. "Also, each store must be part of a bigger story that works with the city's environment outside the four walls."
"Retail design will always be a changing landscape," Janson observes. "What's unique about this era is the rapidity of change."
PROJECT TEAM: PETER WEED; TAKA KAWABATA; YUJI YAMAZAKI; CAMAAL BENOIT; INGRID MONTOYA; STEPHANIE FELTON; COURTNEY CANGELOSI; MAIKO WATANABE.
CHAIRS (MEN'S): RIVOLTA E LA PELLE. TABLES: TACCHINI. CUSTOM RUG (MEN'S), WOOD FLOORING: SULLIVAN SOURCE. WALL TILE (ENTRY), MARBLE FLOORING: MORUZZI. CANOPY MATERIAL (ATRIUM): BARRISOL. FLOORING (COSMETICS): ARTISTIC TILE. WALL FINISHING (JEWELRY, MEN'S): MOSS & LAM. CUSTOM SIGNAGE (ROOF TERRACE): AARON BARR STUDIO. PANEL MATERIAL (DESIGN LAB): SENSITILE SYSTEMS. CUSTOM DISPLAY FIXTURES: CARRITEC; ERIK CABINETS; LCM GROUP; NORCLAIR; PANCOR INDUSTRIES; UNIQUE STORE FIXTURES. ESCALATORS: SCHINDLER MANAGEMENT. GLASSWORK: NATHAN ALLAN GLASS STUDIOS. CONSULTANTS: LIGHTING CONSULTANTS (INTERIOR LIGHTING); SUZANNE POWADIUK DESIGN (EXTERIOR LIGHTING); FRONT (EXTERIOR). STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: READ JONESCHRISTOFFERSEN. MEP: MCW CONSULTANTS. ARCHITECT OF RECORD: IBI. GENERAL CONTRACTORS: LEDCOR; STRUCTURE CORP.