Burberry, the venerable British luxury brand, opened a New York flagship on 57th Street with an attention-getting 6-story façade inspired by the firm's renowned plaid (or "check," as the Brits prefer to say). Integrating two existing buildings - the former Escada boutique and the old Burberry shop - the expansive new storefront "makes one billboard out of two buildings," says Lance Boge, design director for Gensler (New York), the architects responsible for the façade and building design.
"Chief executive Rose Marie Bravo wanted a store that said 'Burberry' from top to bottom, side to side - one that would respect the firm's Bond Street legacy, yet address the modern vitality of New York," Boge explains. "Façades are a great brand notator. For Burberry, we didn't literally set out to duplicate its famous check, but needed something to differentiate the store. Because the façade is almost 6 feet deep, we also had to consider the choreography of people who'd be moving around just inside it. Finally, we had to integrate the storefront visually with a glass splinter tower to its left, and a 5-story building to the right. We ended up with a layered solution that suggests, but is not, a 'check' - it's an image that telegraphs the Burberry brand."
The Gensler-designed façade is an asymmetrical grid of caramel-colored limestone, clear glass and metal panels, overlaid with aluminum mesh for a fabric-like texture. The 6-foot square metal panels were individually fabricated in Germany, shipped and assembled on site. Burberry's logo is spelled out in metal letters and a custom-designed modern clock is inspired by the one in the London storefront.
"The number and placement of windows gives Burberry many options to present graphic images or merchandise," Boge says. "We organized the grid so passersby can perceive different aspects of the façade, depending on where they are standing - from the mannequins in ground-level windows to the supergraphics presented on the upper floors."
The project imposed physical challenges, as well, says Michael Rostkowski of Barteluce Architects (New York), architect of record for the interiors. "The interior floors had to be built up by as much as 2 feet in places, to level them out between the old Burberry and Escada buildings. This meant ceilings as low as 7 feet, 2 inches in certain areas," Rostkowski recalls.
Barteluce and design consultant Randall Ridless worked in tandem with the Burberry design team to develop plans for the interiors. "Everything derives from Rose Marie Bravo's vision," Ridless says. "She didn't want a slick white box, nor an 'Olde English' interior with trophies, but a brand environment melding the warmth of British residential design with modern architecture."
According to Ridless, who has collaborated with Bravo on many retail projects over the years, "The DNA of all Burberry projects worldwide comes from the new Bond Street store in London - an updated, warm version of the British country house with rooms that flow into one another, spaces that showcase the product and a palette based on the colors of the famous Burberry check, which are abstracted in many patterns, but not 'in your face.' " Materials used in the London store - macassar ebony, oak, zebrawood and mosaic and stone flooring - are also the basis for the New York flagship's interiors, along with glamorous "modern" materials like lucite and colored glass.
"The New York flagship is a modern take on a 6-story townhouse, connected by stairwells," Ridless says. "Between the first and third floors is a floating Mondrian-inspired stairwell with colors deriving from the Burberry check - caramel-colored oak, polished red plaster, black anodized bronze and cream-colored backlit lucite."
Each floor of the "expanded townhouse" is divided into front, middle and rear "rooms," each with its own theme and look. On the warmly lighted entry level, which has mosaic glass tile flooring, signature Burberry accessories like the plaid scarf and umbrella, bags, sunglasses and ties are showcased. Floor two houses women's designer clothing, including Burberry's top-of-the-line Prorsum label. Edgy sportswear and jeans are presented on floor three, also home to the Mad Tea Cup - a long curving oak tea bar with 15 leather and polished metal seats.
The fourth floor is dedicated to children's clothing and accessories in the brightly lit center area, while gifts and home accessories are offered in a cozy "living room" alcove toward the rear. In the front "room," reserved for women's rain and outerwear - a Burberry staple - stock items hang in a recessed track alcove that curves around the perimeter with sliding panels behind that access back stock.
The fifth and sixth floors constitute a "penthouse for men" - a special destination at the top of the townhouse, set apart from the bustle of the street. On five is "The Art of the Trench" department, featuring special-order trench coats, along with standard stock - 500 raincoats that snake around a moving conveyor belt to one side. Nearby is the VIP room, a cozy gentleman's lounge with a plasma screen TV. To the front, suits are presented in a clubby sitting room with suede chairs, striped oak flooring and a woven leather area rug.
A dark wood staircase situated near the front window overlooks the street and connects the two menswear floors. On six, men's sportswear is merchandised in a bright, upbeat environment dominated by the cream and caramel colors of the Burberry check.
An interior elevator, accessed from the middle "rooms" of each floor, has the signature Burberry color palette, including red leather panels.
Ridless notes that all of the furniture, finishes and fixtures have been created exclusively for Burberry, with meticulous attention to detail. The garment trade is referenced metaphorically in the textures of the fabrics and materials. Heavy-gauge rugs are woven in sets to suggest the texture of gabardine (invented and once copyrighted by the company founder, Thomas Burberry). Cowhide rugs are patched together and, on the men's floors, custom woven leather strips form central area rugs.
Art is also important, as befits an upscale New York townhouse. Even the fixtures are inspired by works of modern art, says Ridless, including square polished-nickel shelves that mimic the well-known Donald Judd wall sculptures. A large round table designed by David Linley is inlaid with marquetry suggesting Mondrian's compositions. Everywhere, materials and textures are combined for a layering effect.
The New York flagship is part of Burberry's ongoing expansion plan. Currently, Burberry showcases its collections in 69 stores worldwide, including 24 in the U.S.
Client: Burberry Ltd., London - Rose Marie Bravo, chief executive; Eugenia Ulasewicz, president, Burberry USA
Interior Design Consultant: Randall A. Ridless LLC, New York - Randall Ridless, principal
Interior Architect of Record: Daniel J. Barteluce Architects, New York - Michael Rostkowski, associate
Façade and Building Design: Gensler, New York - Lance Boge, design director
General Contractor: Richter + Ratner, Maspeth, N.Y.
Suppliers: O'Kane & Associates, Garnerville, N.Y. (ceilings); Daniel DeMarco & Associates, Amityville, N.Y., Modern Woodcrafts LLC, Farmington, Conn. (fixturing); Architectural Systems Inc., New York, Premiere Flooring Inc., Bronx, N.Y. (flooring); Color Edge Visual, New York (graphics); Lido Lighting, Deer Park, N.Y. (lighting); United Sign Systems, Dongan Hills, N.Y. (signage); Fresco, New York (faux finishes)