Kaleidoscope-like ‘veil’ immerses Parisian shoppers into a world of intricate geometries and vivid colours

France; a country rightfully recognised for producing some of the world’s most discerning architects and designers – from Jean Nouvel, Le Corbusier and Jean de Chelles through to Gabrielle Bonheur and Christian Dior. While the nation’s cities and towns boast historically-significant ornamental architecture that flank its charming bars and cafes, the contemporary designs produced both for and from this design-rich realm are equally notable. Here, FC&A explores one of France’s modern-day designs – a kaleidoscope-like ‘veil’ concealed inside a Parisian mall by Canadian-based practice, UUfie.

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rchitectural studio, UUfie, has designed the new vertical circulation space in the renowned department store Printemps Haussmann in Paris, France. The project was a part of the revitalisation of Printemps Haussmann to introduce a circulation from the lower ground floor up to the ninth floor. Founded in 1865, Printemps has had a long history in revolutionising the ways of shopping.

The original interior had featured an atrium with a massive spiral staircase. Sadly, much of this was destroyed by disastrous fires and removed during the modernisation of the building. Since then, Printemps has restored the Art Nouveau building’s facade and the stained glass dome, which are both recognised as historical monuments in Paris. Looking forward, a new project was commenced to reintroduce a new grand atrium to equal its landmark status.

The space features a delicate three-dimensional form based on a concept of a vertical dome, also called a veil. It is reminiscent and a homage to the store’s iconic stained glass domes seen in 1894. It weighs 24 tonnes but appears to float in front of the vertical circulation with a glass floor and mirror ceiling. It is 25.5m high and 12.5m wide, consisting of white-painted aluminium sheets laminated to create a floral relief. The pattern is an interpretation of images found in the original stained-glass transposed into a repetitive pattern. It respects the tradition of the Art Nouveau motif found in nature. It is then randomised to form approximately 17200 petal-shaped openings. This revealing a transformative array of colours through the effect of dichroic glass. As a contemporary interpretation of stained glass, it has the similar iridescent quality to the surface and appears like a burst of fireworks or falling blossoms.

Conceived as a public interior space that is read through experiencing the depth and layering. Visitors approach through a darkened vestibule leading to the newly-installed escalators. Behind the one-way mirror wall that conceals the escalators, reveals the veil through the tinted glass view. As people move vertically through the space, the one-way mirror opens to give an unobstructed view of the veil. The progression up and down provides a different perspective and moments to experience the transformation of colours.

The geometry of the veil conceived by connecting the four corners of the void with pure curves in plan and elevation. The combination of two-dimensional curved panels gives the overall three-dimensional shape. The one-way mirror, when viewed from the void, creates a moment of fascination. The veil is mirrored to create the image of a biconvex geometric space, a completed symmetry that can be seen from the side, top and below. On the retail interior, the veil is perforated to allow interior lighting to transfer. The transparent dichroic glass fills each opening and creates a surface with infinite gradation. The effect is sensitive and scenographical, and its energy is translated into the retail concepts on each floor.

Started as a competition in 2013 with the team produced by Yabu Pushelberg, the project negotiated the constraints of the existing building and strict fire regulation, while exhibiting both ingenuity in architecture and engineering. The construction was completed in only eight months while the stores were able to remain in operation. The result is a space that is symbolic of Printemps, its meaning in French being ‘spring’.

Fact File:

Location:
Paris, France

Floor area:
2000m²

Number of storeys:
10 (B1F-9F)

Design period:
2013-2016

Construction period:
2016-2017

Client:
Printemps

Design architect:
UUfie

Producer:
Yabu Pushelberg

Local architect/site coordination:
S.C.O

Facade and structure engineer:
T/E/S/S atelier d’ingénierie

Lighting consultant:
Inverse

Structure consultant:
Khephren Ingénierie

MEP consultant:
GLI – Groupe Ekium

Metal fabricator:
Sipral

Photographer:
Michel Denance

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