Fashionistas from around the world visit New York to indulge in its impressive range of stores and beauty services, from large department stores to independently owned boutiques and world- class spas. However, even those not interested in fashion and beauty recognize the name Elizabeth Arden and its trademark red door. Located on 5th Avenue, the famed Elizabeth Arden flagship store sees thousands of visitors each year. Recently, the store got a facelift to refresh its outdated look.
Glenn Leitch, AIA, principal of New York-based Highland Associates, doesn’t claim to know much about the beauty industry, but his talent for adaptive reuse work, particularly in the retail sector, is unsurpassed. “I told [Elizabeth Arden] I’d come up with a powerful concept and we would work together to turn that concept into a beauty store,” he remembers.
While browsing Elizabeth Arden’s Web site, Leitch saw a photo of a woman with a shopping bag that had a red ribbon coiling behind it; this became the basis for the design. “The ribbon has a lot of metaphors,” Leitch says. “It’s a package. It represents gifts. The wiggles in the ribbon create different zones for different products. The whole store is actually a package that spills out onto 5th Avenue.” To achieve the fluid expression of a ribbon, Leitch looked at different materials but settled on the malleable nature of metal. He worked closely with display designer Dan Gutfreund, president of Toronto-based Industry Outfitters Inc. to execute the concept.
Blake Mourer, AIA, LEED AP, senior associate and design director at Gensler’s Denver office and a judge in this year’s metalmag Architectural Awards says: “The red ribbon was a simple gesture they [the design team] carried through the store, creating a really strong and elegant impact. The strength and clarity of the concept and how metal was used as a device to move through the store is really important. They not only used it as a [construction material], but it’s also a way-finding device. It’s a smart, clever, elegant solution.”
Modern technology helped expedite the project. The team did a full-size numerically controlled laser-cut computer mock-up on the floor, then projected a laser from the floor to the ceiling, following the ribbon’s curves. That enabled the team to work on the ceiling before the bent metal panels arrived. The ribbon wall was fabricated out of custom 1/8-inch (3-mm) steel that was curved, cut and segmented into panels 14 feet (4 m) high and no wider than 5 feet (1.5 m).
One concern was the light reflectivity off the red panels. Leitch reflected light down continuously along the red wall rather than bouncing light off it, which would have resulted in a red glow. “The light source grazes the wall rather than reflects off it,” he says.
Leitch chose metal not only for practicality, but also for artistic reasons. Its ability to take paint well appealed to him; metal can achieve a highly lacquered look that wood can’t. The physical properties of the material also were fascinating for him. “Metal is interesting because it starts as a liquid and in the end we form it into something that looks like a frozen liquid,” he says. “There’s something interesting behind that from a poetic material sense.”
— By Laurie Banyay
ARCHITECT Highland Associates, New York, www.highlandassociates.com
GENERAL CONTRACTOR Lehr Construction Corp., New York, www.lehrcc.com
METAL INSTALLER AND DISPLAY DESIGNER Industry Outfitters Inc., Toronto, industryoutfittersinc.com
METAL DETAILS About 2,000 square feet (186 m2) of custom metal was used for the red ribbon