Stanton Williams' new store makes use of tactile materials developed with artist Susanna Heron
Completed in September 2008, this landmark store for House of Fraser in Bristol challenges the current preference in retail architecture for iconic ‘black boxes’, unrelated to their surroundings. Instead, it connects with the surrounding urban landscape.
The building comprises massive cubic volumes at its upper levels, juxtaposed and cantilevered out above a single-storey plinth. Their dynamic sculptural form recalls shifting tectonic blocks, an impression reinforced by the fossil-rich Roach bed Portland stone with which they are predominantly clad. Large windows and narrow vertical glazed ‘faults’ punctuate the stonework, adding to the sense of movement and allowing views out. Those at the corners appear not as lightweight openings, but rather as solid, reflective blocks by day and beacons of light at night which signal the store’s presence at the gateway to the city.
Other materials continue the organic theme of the Roach, catching light, shade and even rain in different ways. Cast bronze panels at plinth level appear to be molten in their rough, tactile surface. Acid-etched, sand-blasted glass creates a shimmering effect in the case of the largest window, some fourteen metres by six. The treatment of glass and bronze – traditional department-store materials – was developed in close collaboration with artist Susanna Heron. The result is a fusion of architecture and art whose contextual basis seeks to be both contemporary and timeless.