Miles of Aisles
Jordan Mozer brings the shopping street inside at Karstadt Arkaden, a giant department store near Düsseldorf, Germany
Otto Pohl -- Interior Design, 10/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
To Jordan Mozer, the 430,000-square-foot Karstadt department store near Düsseldorf, Germany, resembled one long run-on sentence. Home furnishings blurred into lighting supplies; electronics cascaded into sporting goods; lingerie and power tools shared indistinguishable settings. "I saw absolutely no landmarks," the designer says of his first visit to the three-story behemoth. "All the lighting was the same. The ceilings were the same. There was no punctuation."
Charged with redesigning circulation zones for the mega-store—part of the Rhein-Ruhr Zentrum mall—Mozer and Jeff Carloss, principals of Jordan Mozer & Associates, threw out the existing amorphous layout, replacing it with clearly defined departments laid out along 20-foot-wide aisles, some curving gently as they slice through the enormous space. Vinyl flooring establishes a distinct personality for each zone, as color and pattern reflect the type of products on offer.
Women's wear, for instance, exudes fashion-conscious retro chic: geometric shapes with rounded corners, a palette of brown, white, and taupe, and warm, atmospheric lighting. By contrast, cubist-inspired menswear is much harder-edged. Colors are darker and more muted; wood and stone are dominant; lighting is more dramatic. Fronting the sporting-goods area, a colonnade of white-lacquered steel arches creates a feeling of motion. '
The challenge in reconfiguring nearly 10 acres of shopping space was to make it intriguing without being confusing. "We needed a sense of mystery to keep people moving through the store," says Mozer. He knew that the world's most successful shopping precincts—Madison Avenue, Rodeo Drive, Bond Street—have several things in common: dramatic window displays, narrow storefronts, and different types of shops in surprising juxtapositions. Mozer incorporated some of those elements into Karstadt's new layout, dividing the departments into boutiques that line the aisles. As customers walk along these boulevards, there's something new to discover around every bend.
To keep shoppers from becoming disoriented, Jordan Mozer & Associates placed strong visual reference points where the major arteries intersect. Each level has several of these nodes, which employ custom light fixtures, seating, and flooring as navigational beacons. For women's wear, the firm designed a white leather-upholstered semicircular banquette with a ceiling-height columnar backrest. Amoebalike white-lacquered display stands punctuate the nexus of the luggage and beauty departments, while moodily lit tufted fabric panels flank the entry to home furnishings. The crossroads between that department and groceries is marked by a bold brown-and-cream target on the vinyl floor—a motif echoed above by the Saturn-like rings of the dropped ceiling and the conical pendant fixtures.
The budget did not allow for more ambitious plans to raise the ceilings, build an atrium, and relocate the escalators. "It was a skin job," Mozer says. Cost-cutting measures included painting the exposed ducts ' and pipes dark brown and adding visual distractions in the form of custom pendant fixtures and overlapping ceiling plates. Other inconvenient structural components were transformed into attractions. Near women's accessories, for example, the designers sheathed a column in spray-lacquered MDF with portholes cut out for backlit display niches.
The stylish Himmelreich café, bar, and lounge at the far end of the second level draws customers through the store. Experience with retail projects in Las Vegas informed the watering hole's swank 1970's vibe—the translucent acrylic panels of boxy laquered ceiling fixtures glow softly over booths with banquettes covered in white faux leather. The lounge boasts a large flat-screen TV and low white leather-covered lounge chairs, some of the few items not designed by Mozer's firm.
The transition from the rest of the mall to the renovated department store, now known as the Karstadt Arkaden, is as seamless as possible. Nothing more than a few backlit signs announces the change.
Similarly unchanging are the Karstadt Arkaden sales figures, which have remained stable since the redesign—a significant accomplishment in a tough retail environment that has seen many shops across Germany lose up to 30 percent of their business. With more shoppers purchasing big-ticket items, the renovation did more than just improve the interior of the department store, says general manager Ursula Vierkötter: "We've managed to upgrade the customers, too."