Laura Kaiser | April 27, 2013
Walking along the promenade in Baltimore's swank Harbor East shopping district, you know you're getting close to Under Armour when you spot the branded water taxi docked in the marina. That's how the company's executives and designers prefer to zip from headquarters to the store, an 8,200-square-foot consumer laboratory for Under Armour's athletic wear.
"We didn't reference specific sports teams. That would have been too obvious," Architecture + Information principal Brad Zizmor says. "We dug deeper into what the brand is about—serious clothes for serious athletes."
Front and center: a massive concrete column transformed into a four-sided display fixture for colorful shoes. Zizmor and principal Dag Folger encased the top of the column with four JumboTron-type screens mutely flashing Under Armour's "I WILL" videos. Around the base of the column, basketball-court flooring, painted glossy black, is perfect for test-jumping Spine Bionic phat kicks. Try them on while seated in one of six "thrones," elevated upholstered seats that recall childhood back-to-school excursions. The seating is built into concrete islands outfitted with Douglas fir shelves and slanted toe-kick mirrors.
Each type of shoe is placed strategically near perfectly toned mannequins dressed in activity-appropriate gear. Running? High on one wall, neon stretchy capris cover a phalanx of what have to be the best bums in Baltimore.
As you open a dressing room's door, diffused lighting comes up "gently like the sun," Folger says. Curved walls inside showcase graphic panoramas of Baltimore landmarks and neighborhoods. Back in the small lounge outside the fitting rooms, you come smack up against a photomural of a larger-than-life female specimen doing an impossibly athletic back bend. And somehow you think, Yes, I will. I will indeed.