Debenhams, Oxford Street, London

Adrian V Montagu
Date Built
334 - 338 Oxford Street
Debenhams' flagship department store on Oxford Street presents a glittery face to what is one of the World's premier shopping streets.  Whether or not you appreciate this façade, there are those who felt the previously unadorned building was somewhat of an ugly duckling on the street and rather dispiriting.  The recladding make-over was pat of a £40million refurbishment that included a new look for the trading floors, a new atrium, extended shop windows and new signage.

Archial Architects were responsible for the new look which they described as, "... creating an art installation that could be developed into a commercial enterprise"  The art installation they were referring to was the cladding screen designed in conjunction with Ned Khan, a US based environmental artist.  It involved 185,000 aluminium shingles that are designed to gently ripple in the wind.  The shingles project 840mm from the face of the building.  Each shingle is 5 inches square and made of anodised aluminium.  To reduce weight the shingles are perforated. 

To add to the effect a lighting system was  installed to illuminate and animate it at night.  The practice's website explains that, "...Impressively, the shingles do not just occupy the principal Oxford Street facade but all four sides of the store expanding over 3,000m². ... One of the interesting things about the existing building is that there is no elevational hierarchy, no back and front, all sides are treated equally."

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