Saint Laurent Paris

Project: Saint Laurent Paris (YSL)
Address: 469 Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210 Architect: Unknown

Date Built: Unknown Style: Retail Contemporary

Date Visited: December 27 2014 Time: 9:40 - 10:20 AM

Camera: Pentax K-x (Auto Pict Mode)

Every month I meet a colleague, Nicole, in Beverly Hills. I look forward to these meetings because I find the streets of Beverly Hills to be inspiring. It represents the pinnacle of luxury and style and equally represents the competition for attention only afforded in a neighborhood where the Lamborghini is only outdone by the Bugatti. Whether it be gold metallic accents on a pair of Jimmy Choo heels, the front spoiler of a Ferrari, or the architectural manifestations on the retail stores, there is always some design element worth returning to investigate and learn from.

At the intersection of luxury and wealth, retail knows no bounds. On Rodeo Drive storefront street presence is derived from the accentuation of form, color, and shape. For those lucky enough to secure a corner site such as the YSL, the tenant has the opportunity to create a landmark not just a store front. Keep in mind that style is iconoclastic and with style comes brand. The more powerful the brand the more someone is apt to embrace a lifestyle aligned towards that identity. This is demonstrated time and time again for the consumer in many aspects of physical possessions. For those who do not shop on Rodeo, me included, think about the smartphone you have in your pocket and how the brand it is defines who you are and how you work. Take that to the level of the retail store, think about flagship Apple stores that are swarming with casually clad workers in matching shirts. The store is clean and crisp, a reflection of Scandinavian and Japanese influences, enclosed in a precise glass box.  

As witnessed at the YLS building, a weaving of material has a profound affect on how this building is perceived and interacted with by the pedestrian. Taking a single material, metal strips painted white are bent with various curves and stacked vertically one on top of the other. The varied patterning and gap between adjacent upper and lower metal strips implies a feeling of undulation and creates a rippling affect for the individual.

The striking building facade is profound for the pedestrian adjacent to the building walking from the relatively flat surface of the storefronts that bookend each side of the building. This engagement with the pedestrian is first felt through the pushing and pulling of the metal strips along the horizontal plane. An equally affective dynamic shadow edge or dark slit is created in the gap between the two planes of metal. Appearing as if to have various slices cut into the facade of the building, the variety and randomness begin to unify the entire building along the sidewalk. Similar to the look and feel of a basket, the facade variety remains more random and chaotic over the entire length of the facade, establishing a uniform canvas punctured by entry into the store and picture windows.

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The display windows and entryways into the store garner special attention and dominance in the facade by returning back to a flat 2-dimensional plane. Each window is framed as though a painting with a wide flat metal strip that wraps not only the front of the window but returns back to the building on all sides. The edge condition where the window frame meets the facade wall is visually powerful to the pedestrian because of the juxtaposition of design fluidity and contrasting geometric window frame. Additionally, the window frame protrudes out from of the undulating facade further calling attention to itself and asking to be noticed.   

The store entrance dominates the facade by being the largest element. Dramatically recessed from the sidewalk, each entrance creates a moment of ceremony before entering the store. This short but significant transition from the street to the store breaks one from the street perspective and provides a grand entrance into the store that is not felt when walking through a standard height door. The windows at the sidewalk provide a framed picture for merchandise. The entry into the building provides a framed picture into the store and shopping experience when viewed from the sidewalk. Two completely different experiences and perspectives to the pedestrian are artfully crafted through the positioning of the window and door frame in the facade wall.

The visual undulation of the wall is what first drew my attention to the building. The weaving of forms, materials, and building program is captivating because of the purposeful and serendipitous events that can happen.