Only an aristocratic estate would do for Jil Sander's first London flagship.
The grand space at the corner of Savile Row and Burlington Gardens, constructed in 1721 as a residence for the Earl of Darnley and later transformed into the Royal Bank of Scotland, was viewed as a worthy candidate for the high-end designer apparel.
Lighting designer Ross Muir of Ross MUIRreality (New York), who worked closely with the architects at Gabellini Associates (New York), won an award with this brightly lit, minimalist environment reflective of the Jil Sander line. "We had to go through a historic-view process with the English Heritage society," says Muir. "It tightly controls how you can renovate a historic building of this type. We had to figure out how to achieve a modern design because the society generally wants only to restore the building."
The ornate 25-foot-high coffered ceiling required a great number of lights with high-level output. Modern metal halide spotlights in slender slot fixtures are concealed into the existing architecture. "We recessed the lights into the ceiling beams with a detail so they would appear to be part of the original design," says Muir, "and then covered the slots with glass tiles. It's a subtle and discreet coexistence with the old columns, beams and cornices." Handmade fluorescent lighting also was used in large coves and cornices in the stairwell, the retail space and the VIP fitting rooms.
Designers added three floating curvilinear walls on the main retail floor to divide the store into distinct product groups. White LED lighting was integrated into the walls' thin metal shelving. According to Muir, it was a challenge because every component had to be newly designed. The metal shelves are part of the circuit, and the current runs throughout the shelving, thus requiring no wires. When the units are pulled from the wall, the power is unplugged.
Jil Sander stores are generally bright and white, so Muir made use of the building's historic glass dome skylights to get an ambient glow. "We put theatrical balanced floodlights up behind the skylights," says Muir, "so direct daylight is cast into the space without seeing the fixture. This theater film light gives the illusion of a sun behind the skylights." The filtered natural light and artificial sources simulate constant daylight.
The staircase to the second-level showroom and VIP fitting rooms features a dramatic domed coffered ceiling with the store's oculus skylight in the middle. Hidden light coves at the base of the dome provide a soft upward wash of brightness toward the natural light. To add even more illumination to the stairwell, Muir designed a 27-foot-long custom tubular fixture - or light wand - extending down from the skylight to the ground-level atrium.
"I'd been experimenting with this type of light pipe, but designers wondered if a pendant this long would be appropriate," says Muir. "We wanted something that would make a statement, but wasn't too traditional."
It took five years to complete the store due to the lengthy English Heritage review process. In the end, the society view-ed the lighting solution as discrete enough, effectively illuminating and enhancing the balance between old and new.
Muir's design was judged best in class, for its use of Philips MasterColor® ceramic metal halide lamps, in the annual Philips' Innovation Awards competition. These lamps are used to uplight portions of the Jil Sander ceiling and are recessed into its beams to provide direct lighting on the merchandise.
**The Ross MUIRreality lighting design for Jil Sander won the 2003 Philips Lighting Innovation Award.**
Client: Jil Sander, Hamburg, Germany
Design/Architecture: Gabellini Associates, New York
Outside Design Consultants: Ross MUIRreality, New York (lighting design); Hosker Kent Moore, London (local architect); Wallis Construction, London (general contractor); Mark Alford Associates, London (construction manager); Whitby Bird & Partners, London (engineers); Raytell Electric, London (electrician)
Suppliers: Cube LID Ltd., London (LED light fixtures, custom pendant); Litelab, Buffalo, N.Y. (HID fixtures); Rambusch, Newark, N.J. (sconces); Lucent, London (lighting supplier); Lutron, London (lighting controls); Oldham Lighting, Manchester, U.K. (handmade fluorescent lighting)