The Galeries Lafayette 52 AV. Des Champs-Élysées project is a competition proposal for a new concept department store on four floors of an existing building on Avenue Des Champs-Élysées. The existing building includes a central atrium with an art deco glass dome, marble-clad steel structural columns and a grand stair connecting the ground to the first floor. Its ground floor is small compared to the basement and upper levels, presenting a ‘pinch’ in the retail experience. One of the challenges of the store design is to create a sense of continuity between the basement and upper levels, as well as between the historical features of the existing building and its new features. Another is to create a 21st century store that provides a retail experience different to both the many multi-brand stores that already populate the length of Avenue des Champs-Élysées, and convenient-based online shopping platforms. What would be the difference between them other than size? Also, currently, department stores and luxury stores are trying to differentiate themselves and from online shopping by presenting their customers with artworks amongst their merchandise. The new GL store is an opportunity to question the difference between a department store and an art gallery.
FMA’s proposal reinvents the atrium as a destination event space rather than a passive space for gazing across merchandise. This involves the insertion of a bridge traversing the atrium at level 2, and mirroring the existing grand stair with a set of escalators. Enhanced with a bridge and additional connections to the upper floors, the atrium becomes an amphitheatre to be programmed with a variety of events- such as fashion shows, film screenings, pop-up displays or informal gatherings - on its steps, entry floor, bridge, or on all of these elements as a single continuous event growing vertically inside the store. The event atrium would bring a sense of spontaneity and unpredictability to the retail experience fueled as much by the configuration of events found within it each time as well as the spaces in which they are encountered, unlike the a-spatial and routine nature of online retailing.
The retail floors are designed to present variety without resorting to the collage-like nature of the shop-in-shop model. The ceilings of the four floors are designed as different lightweight triangulated grid structures that originate from the geometry of the existing art deco dome. This creates a sense of continuity with the building’s heritage, whilst providing both coherence and variety to the customers’ journeys from floor to floor.
The display system is designed a modular kit of parts that can be assembled in different ways to create different environments on each floor to cater for different products or brands, obviating the need for the shop-in-shop model.
The department store is also reimagined not only as a place to buy goods but also as a place where the art of everyday objects is celebrated and connected with subjects that transcend the physical limits of the store. The strategy of introducing “artworks” in between the store’s merchandise is replaced by curated journeys throughout the store that would connect objects of the store to each other in unexpected ways.
The reconceptualization of the store atrium as an event space, the design of retail floors as an assemblage of consistent elements that can be configured differently over time to provide different atmospheres, and the redefinition of the journeys through the store, would generate a 21st century department store: at once spatially unique, transient, a place to buy goods, and a place to learn about the art of everyday objects, unlike online shopping and multi-brand stores that are predictable places designed exclusively to sell goods efficiently.