Layers and Lighting: How Top Architects Design Fashion Stores to Turn Heads by Day and Night

Flagship stores excite both fashion shoppers and designers alike due to their role as visionary laboratories for the latest trends and stimulating retail experiences. Architects have developed various ways to dress haute couture stores, from distinctive icons in the day to seductive night-time images. The images accompanying this article, created by the Portuguese architect and illustrator André Chiote, help to explore the graphic potential of famous brands like Dior, Prada and Tod's. The illustrations clearly reveal the various techniques of playing with diaphanous layers, intimate views inside or the contrast of light and shadow.

For Tod's Omotesando Building in Tokyo, Toyo Ito created a tree-like concrete structure around the L-shaped glass volume. He wanted to avoid a conventional uniform dress and therefore developed a structure that expresses the flow of forces with interlocking branches, evoking a sense of nature. During the day the glass reflects the bright sky and does not allow a view of the interior. But with dawn and the interior lighting it requires, the building opens to the public with an intimate view through the branches. The branches themselves emerge as a dark silhouette as potential customers look through the tree-like skin for the latest fashion trends.

In contrast, the nearby Dior store reveals strictly nothing of the interior with its translucent dress. By day the elegant white skin reminds the visitors of a couture dress with overlapping layers, and the facade creates a link to traditional Japanese shoji walls. SANAA composed this diaphanous brand image with a sophisticated double-skin: A transparent glass façade for the outside and undulating white acrylic panels for the second layer. White horizontal bands subtly divide the building volume into segments of different heights. At night these bands turn into a distinctive pattern of dark lines framing the luminous lantern of white and bluish shades. For special events, the lighting infrastructure between the double skin can even turn the flagship store into a colorful energetic volume with red light, or into an ice block with blue.

Herzog & de Meuron envisioned a crystalline look for the Prada Aoyama store in Tokyo, with a rhomboid-shaped grid for the façade comprising convex, concave and flat panels of glass. During the day the people encounter distorted reflections due to the glass shapes - comparable to a contact lens resting on the façade. The bright environment reflected in the glass façade makes it difficult to see of the inside. But by night, when warm light fills the interior, the flat skin transforms into a transparent layer and reveals a spatial experience. The distorted view vanishes and grants a clear sight of haute couture.

The Dior flagship store in Miami abstains from the glass effects used by many of its contemporaries. Barbaritobancel Architectes transformed the form of a plissé dress into slightly curved façade elements. As the sun moves during the day, the shadow patterns change slowly and elegantly. The white dress creates a clean canvas to absorb the sun and enjoys an interesting play of light and shadow. By night the interior lighting reveals the fine cuts between the façade elements. The vertical light structure thus recalls the linear aspect of plissé.

Light matters, a monthly column on light and space, is written by Thomas Schielke. Based in Germany, he is fascinated by architectural lighting and works as an editor for the lighting company ERCO. He has published numerous articles and co-authored the books “Light Perspectives” and “SuperLux”. For more information check, or follow him @arcspaces.

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Cite: Thomas Schielke. "Layers and Lighting: How Top Architects Design Fashion Stores to Turn Heads by Day and Night" 01 Feb 2017. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

© André Chiote


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