Selfridges & Co. Department Store

The brief for this highly ambitious project required both the design of a state-of-the-art department store as well as the creation of an architectural landmark for Birmingham, so that the building itself would become a genuine catalyst for urban regeneration. Therefore the strategy was to reinterpret the notion of a department store, not just in its form and appearance but also in the social function such a building now plays in our society. Its relationship to the church is significant, representing the religious and commercial lives of the city that have evolved side by side over hundreds of years. The building provides an ethereal backdrop to the Gothic architecture of St Martin’s and its proximity creates a powerful visual tension between church and department store. Glimpsed from the train entering Birmingham from the south, it promises mystery and excitement in a city undergoing a 21st-century renaissance.
The fluidity of shape recalls the fall of fabric or the soft lines of a body, rising from the ground and gently billowing outwards before being drawn in at a kind of waistline. It then curves out again and over to form the roof in one continuous movement. The skin is made up of thousands of aluminium discs creating a fine, lustrous grain. In sunlight it shimmers, reflecting minute changes in weather conditions and taking on the colours, light and shapes of people and things passing by ? an animate and breathing form. The interior had to be a blank canvas for an array of changing interior design and shop-fits. However by designing key elements of the interior ? the dramatic roof lit atrium criss crossed by a white cat’s cradle of sculpted escalators and the smaller but equally powerful atrium ?, the integrity of the interior is preserved and lives up to the expectations set by the building’s exterior.