Restoration Hardware Takes Luxury Retail to the Next Level
Entering Restoration Hardwares massive New York or Boston store, guests will discover a soaring central atrium with high-speed glass elevators as the central showpiece that transports visitors through their retail galleries. “It wasn’t the internet that killed retail stores; it was a lack of imagination and investment,” explains CEO Gary Friedman. With nearly twenty magnificent brick and mortar locations in Canada and the USA, Friedmans reinvention of luxury retail is rising above the competition.
Most notably, the recently completed New York Gallery, RH’s three-story addition by Architects Backen, Gillam & Kroeger sits within the bourgeoning Meatpacking District. Formally known for meat muck, night clubs, and take out, the neighbourhood is home to SOHO House, the Highline and the Whitney Museum of American Art. The team has redeveloped an industrial brick building on the corner of 9th & 13th W into four floors of furnishings complete with a brand new facade, and a breezy rooftop restaurant well on its way to become a popular as the legendary Pastis.
RH NEW YORK:
The Gallery in the Historic Meatpacking District
Upon entering, a spectacular glass elevator whisks customers through the gallery to the skylit roof above. A breakthrough feature in retail dating back to 1880’s, department stores like Toronto’s Eatons Centre celebrated elevators as a way to activate the large central corridor that cuts through each floor plan. This empty space is animated by the elevator that works as its own self contained luxury object in a dramatic space unlike anything customers would experience in traditional boutique shops.
“It wasn’t the internet that killed retail stores; it was a lack of imagination and investment,” explains CEO Gary Friedman.
This atrium concept is model perfected by John Portman’s in his contemporary hotel designs in New York, Atlanta and Boston. He described the whole idea was to “create an internal lung”. “You want to hopefully spark their enthusiasm,” he told the Times. “Like riding in a glass elevator: everyone talks on a glass elevator. You get on a closed-in elevator, everyone looks down at their shoes. A glass elevator lets people’s spirits expand. Architecture should be a symphony.”
The Gallery at the Historic Museum of Natural History
To showcase the RH brand in Boston, the Boston Society for Natural History was restored, reclaimed and transformed into four levels of retail space becoming a symphony of experiences. The ground floor, which already had a beautiful entrance opens to the painstakingly recreated glass and iron pedestrian elevator from 1892. Envisioned by Bergmeyer Associates, the stacked iron column hoistway and glass cab is a breathtaking feature in RH’s merchandise gallery.
After passing under the pavilion, shoppers enter into a grand lobby space and immediately see the massive counterweight elevator. The elevators installed in the iconic 1893 Bradbury Building in downtown Los Angeles inspired the architects for this particular design. The relocated traction elevator was used as a bold architectural move to anchor the existing three story central atrium to the new expanded entrance on Newbury Street which previously did not exist.
The original vaulted and iridescent gold-coffered ceiling has been restored and is visible from the first level 70 feet below. Many urbanists and architecture theorists suggest that these airy spaces create a cloistered artificial island that discourage visitors from venturing away, something every retailer can only dream of when year it seems another retailer is shutting down for good. Toys R Us and Sears filed for bankruptcy in 2018, closing over 1,000 of stores; Best Buy’s mobile shops are being shuttered, as are Starbucks’ Teavana locations. Yet, in the time of the retail apocalypse, RH’s brick and mortar stores are thriving. As Friedman continues to create these retail destinations, RH joins Apple with the revival of retail as they expand their footprint into popular “public spaces”.
“STEPPING OUT OF THE ELEVATOR ON LEVEL THREE TO THE SOUND OF TRICKLING FOUNTAINS, GUESTS ENTER THE INDOOR CONSERVATORY & PARK WITH REPRODUCTION HERITAGE OLIVE TREES .”
Backen & Gillam Architects | https://www.bgarch.com/