13 July 2012

Sequined Selfridges

Birmingham's Bullring shopping centre of 2003 is one more unimaginative retail development. But it's home to a stunning piece of landmark architecture, the Selfridges Building, designed by Czech architect Jan Kaplický, of Future Systems.

Construction commenced in 1999, and the building was completed in 2003, at a cost of £60 million. A steel framework supports a sinuously curved façade of sprayed concrete. Six storeys high, the building is dramatic without being overbearing. The treatment of the exterior was inspired by Paco Rabanne's sequined dresses.

On a background of International Klein Blue are mounted over 15,000 discs of spun aluminium, polished and anodised. Set out in horizontal rows of 282, each row with its own equalised spacing, the 24 inch discs emphasise the curves of the building, as does a wavelike plinth of stainless steel and glass.

There are few openings. One receives at the third storey the 120 foot-long and curved pedestrian bridge that joins the building to a multi-storey car park. The bridge is of steel box girder construction, supported by cable stays. The polycarbonate canopy rather lets the building down, as it's already discolouring.

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