Debenhams, Oxford Street

Debenhams, Oxford Street


It takes more than a clever window display to make a major department store stand out from its competitors amongst the busy real estate environs of Oxford Street in London’s West End. But retail giant Debenhams enlisted the support of a group of architects, engineers and contractors to come up with a plan to ensure their flagship store makes a lasting ‘stop-and-look’ impact on customers, tourists and passers-by.

A study was commissioned in 2009 to look at different ways to revitalise the existing steel frame and concrete clad facades, focusing in particular on the front elevation facing directly onto Oxford Street.

With a plan agreed, architects Archial Norr collaborated with world renowned artist and sculptor Ned Kahn to create and install an innovative over-cladding system. With the engineering and installation overseen by Evolve, a new captivating, interactive store front was erected. Known as a ‘Kinetic façade’ the cladding uses thousands of suspended aluminium panels to create a constantly-moving, fluid effect.

This eye-catching piece of public art becomes part of the building itself as it uses movement of the wind, and reflections of the weather, the sky, and light sources to continually ripple, drawing the eye and attention of passing footfall.

The supporting structure has been developed by Evolve to be both light and stiff, easy to assemble and with access for maintenance to both the original concrete façade and the new kinetic installation.