Photo courtesy of FRCH Design Worldwide, by Paul Rivera
Driving toward the upscale suburb of Interlomas as the highway winds out of Mexico City, a brushed silver orb of a department store is about the last thing one would expect to see. The rounded metal structure houses the newest flagship for one of Mexico’s largest and most established department store chains—Liverpool (aka Mexico City-based El Puerto de Liverpool S.A. de C.V.). Continuing its decade-long relationship with Cincinnati-based FRCH Design Worldwide, the retailer also partnered with Rojkind Arquitectos of Mexico City for the exterior concept and the central escalator area, creating a dynamic destination where entire families can shop, grab a bite to eat and spend time together.
The exterior of the store, conceptualized by Rojkind Arquitectos, is a futuristic gem of stainless steel. Nestled on an existing round footprint, the 318,000-sq.-ft. store includes three levels of retail space, plus a rooftop garden. Gerardo Salinas, partner at Rojkind Arquitectos, says the façade is made of 60-ft.-long sections preassembled and installed like puzzle pieces. “It took six months to fabricate and install the sections,” Salinas says. “Out of 7,500 pieces, only 14 had to be redone, and eventually we reused those inside the building. The tolerance between each panel was very tight—only 1/4 in.—so every single piece had to be laser-measured to its exact location.”
At night, the shining monument to retail glory glows from within, with light escaping through the tiny gaps between the panels created by 45 moving mechanical arms rotating LEDs.
Additionally, Salinas says the team at Rojkind Arquitectos had to consider the glare created by the building for local highway drivers, so they grinded the stainless steel in different patterns to subdue the sheen beneath the Mexican sun.
The unique exterior urges city dwellers to pull over, come in and discover what surprises await inside. Escalators transport shoppers effortlessly into departments that are seamlessly united by their simplicity, elegance and beauty.
The interior of the store also flows in a circular route, with merchandise in four corners. “Each corner has its own identity for the merchandise in that area and connects in the center escalator well,” explains Claudia Cerchiara, FRCH’s vice president and client manager for Liverpool.
Upon entering the store, customers are introduced to the fashion-forward brand with its cosmetics, accessories, juniors and women’s areas on full display. White marble flooring and white curved fixtures combine to create a clean, bright and open canvas on which the merchandise can shine.
To keep continuity between the exterior and interior of the building, Liverpool also commissioned Rojkind Arquitectos to complete the interior atrium and escalator area. “We staggered the changes of the escalators, since every single floor has a different geometry,” Salinas explains. The central area is curved like the outside and painted with high-gloss paint and coated with PVC.
Young Rok Park, creative vice president at FRCH, says one goal was to use as many natural materials as possible, including natural flooring products (like marble and wood laminate) and natural light. “Lighting was a whole concept in itself,” Rok Park explains. “There is the glass-blown chandelier in the handbag area, the skylight in the outdoor furniture area and the central escalator corridor, and the open ceiling used in the juniors’ area—they all help create the architectural languages of the space.”
On the second floor, shoppers will find the men’s, young men’s, children’s and sports sections. The men’s areas feature strong frames and clean lines, as well as geometric wood-paneled ceiling.
The home goods, outdoor furniture and appliances sections reside on the third floor. A perceived “skylight” in the truest sense of the word, the one in the home goods area is actually located under a shallow pool in the rooftop park (used for entertaining the kids with remote-controlled boats). Yellow LED lighting encircles the space from above.
Rok Park says what really unites the store’s interior is the frame of the architecture. “We use stainless steel on first floor; black-painted metal frame for juniors and men’s; and natural finish wood for the appliance department and top floor.”
Just beneath the main central skylight, gourmet food shops allow shoppers to grab a bite to eat before venturing out to the rooftop garden. The garden itself—one of the few green areas in this part of the city—features smaller food shops and entertainment options for kids. It even stays open later than the rest of the store at night. “(The rooftop garden) is so popular that they are already carrying park concepts into other stores,” Cerchiara says, adding that this is a very different store for Liverpool. “They continue to grow their brands, grow with families and grow opportunities where other stores are located.”
Because the store is so dynamic from the outside in, it anchors what happens in the entire area, Salinas says. “It is constantly changing. It’s not a static building—the way sun hits it, even on cloudy days. You never know what it’s going to look like,” he says.