Street View of the shop

© 6a architects

In 2013, 6a architects played with Paul Smith’s hand drawings to design the facade pattern of interlocking circles cast in iron for the Paul Smith Retail Shop in London. Slender edges of the circles are decorated to cast shadows over the surface, which is patinated and marked from the casting process.

Paul Smith Retail Shop Technical Information

Cast iron forms an understated background to the city’s streets; its railings, gratings, balconies, and lamp posts,

– 6a architects

Paul Smith Retail Shop Photographs
Facade Front view Paul Smith Retail Shop in London / 6a architects

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Facade and Paul Smith logo

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Facade detail Paul Smith Retail Shop in London / 6a architects

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Facade Window opening detail

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metal forge of facade

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Text by 6a architects

The Albemarle Street shop front for Paul Smith builds on a familiar material tradition in London. Cast iron forms an understated background to the city’s streets; its railings, gratings, balconies, and lamp posts. Paul’s brief was an eclectic collection of references, images, textures, and traditions, encompassing military medals, woven hats and finely drawn gold ingots alongside sharp tailoring, the soft fall of cloth, craftsmanship, and delight in surprise.

The ground floor rustication of the Georgian townhouse and the ornamental language of the 18th-century shopfront were reinterpreted and abstracted in a sinuous pattern of interlocking circles cast into a new solid iron façade. The repetition of the typical Regency shape brought an optical complexity which, with the play of sunlight and shadow, turns the pattern into a deep surface texture. Seen obliquely it seems woven, like a fine cloth.

The surface is further enlivened by the latent makers’ marks of the casting process and the natural patination of the cast iron. A more intimate discovery is to be made in the trio of small drawings by Paul Smith cast directly into panels scattered across the façade.

Curved windows project from the darkly textured iron as luminous vitrines, with a nod to the curved glass of the nearby arcades. A secret door of stained oak lies flush with the cast-iron panels: the inverted carving of the timber recalls the mold and sand bed prepared for the molten metal. The cast-iron panels curve into the recessed oak entrance door and a gently bowed iron step evokes worn away treads. Over time, the iron threshold will polish underfoot, recording the life of the building in its material.

Paul Smith Retail Shop Plan
Elevation Plans Paul Smith Retail Shop in London / 6a architects

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Detail Plans Paul Smith Retail Shop in London / 6a architects

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Paul Smith Retail Shop Image Gallery
About 6a architects

6a architects was founded by Tom Emerson and Stephanie Macdonald in 2001. The practice is best known for its contemporary art galleries, educational buildings, artists’ studios, and residential projects, often in sensitive historic environments.

6a architects’ public works emerged with the completion of two critically acclaimed public art galleries, Raven Row (2009), which won a RIBA Award in 2011, and the expanded South London Gallery (2010) which was followed by a collaboration with artist Gabriel Orozco. The studio has received multiple nominations for the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture –  Mies Van der Rohe Award (2011, 2013 & 2015) and in 2012 was awarded the Erich Schelling Medal for Architecture.

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