The Galeries Lafayette Lumiere is a competition proposal for the Haussmann store, the headquarters of the brand in Paris, to change the existing store to meet 21st century retail demands. The existing store is distinguished by the magnificent dome over its central atrium which, when it first opened in the 19th century, was meant to enable customers to gaze across its multi-floors of merchandise. To reinforce focus on choice, the windows of the department store were blanked off, disconnecting its sales floors entirely from the exterior urban context. In the 20th century, to overcome the uniformity of the department store retail floors, the “shop-in-shop” retail model was introduced to break the large department store into smaller, different experiences. However, this has become a major challenge for customers’ way-finding as it presents them with often insurmountable visual distraction. It also makes one department store like any other as the same brands tend to open ‘shops’ inside all stores. Today, focusing on choice of merchandise and convenience shopping is far better served by online platforms. The challenge is how to provide customers with retail experiences that are coherent and therefore easy to access but not generic, so that shopping in one store is unlike any other.
FMA’s proposal envisions the department store not as a hermetic, sealed environment, but as one which is connected with the exterior urban context. Its atrium is reimagined not as a passive space of contemplation but as an active space in which customers engage in social and cultural events. Accepting that the shop-in-shop model must continue for the time being, it proposes to replace the current cluttered ceilings with new ceilings that would bring visual coherence to the customers’ journeys.