Populous shows changing signs of the times in Stratford

Artist visuals
Artists’ visualisations of signage for Westfield Stratford City

Design details are emerging of the new Westfield Stratford City shopping centre, set to open in east London in September.

The centre will feature a Populous-designed wayfinding system, reflecting the form of the building, and a two-floor food court, designed by Softroom, which was selected over Tom Dixon, Heatherwick Studio and Conran & Partners, and which is looking to channel the ’essence of the East End’.

Populous associate principal Simon Borg says the consultancy pitched for the contract in 2009 as it worked to develop the wayfinding system at Westfield London in White City – which was initially designed by Westfield’s internal design team and Hollywood Monster.

The Stratford wayfinding system has been developed ’in balance’ with the retail environment, Borg says, and considers signage systems of approach roads, transport hubs and the Legible London scheme designed by Applied Information Group. Borg says the system is also inspired by the area’s linguistic and cultural diversity.

The shopping centre abuts the 2012 Olympic Park and Borg says it had to consider how the five Olympic boroughs – including its home borough of Newham – would ’communicate and interconnect’. Language barriers will be overcome through the consistent use of pictograms or large icons.

Aesthetically, the design of the signage is being led by the form of Westfield Stratford’s building design. ’Corners are curved and there are breaks within signage panels to express architectural detail,’ says Borg, who explains that a yellow illumination identifier will let visitors know ’a sign is a sign’.

Signage will be set in curved polyester powder-coated aluminium with screen-printed information. Its modular form means a ’progressive legacy’ can be imposed as information changes are made to the signs after the Olympics.

Westfield Stratford City
Two-floor food hall

Interactive wayfinding is also being developed by Populous in the form of a directory, which will be a static grid map on one side and a digital map on the other.
Inside the centre, Softroom says it is making a 7000m2 two-floor food hall in a bid to reflect the East End locale by giving the space a refurbished building aesthetic using reclaimed materials.

Softroom director Chris Baggott says the consultancy was invited to a paid pitch on the strength of its design for the Westfield London food court. It took inspiration from buildings such as the Tea Building in Shoreditch, which Baggott says is ’robust but on a grand scale, lending itself to convivial environments setting the contemporary against the new’.

Structural steel sections, which are normally covered up, will be exposed to ’make an asset of their strength and beauty’ at Stratford, he says.

This sets a tone for the space, which will use reclaimed timber and host restaurants in a ’very grand double-height space’, on the upper floor, he says. The entry level will be a food court with kiosk concessions.

Dining balconies will be integrated on the upper level. Baggott says, ’It is important to establish links between levels. Cantilevering balconies with seating at the edge of floor plates gives a theatricality – they actually look like theatre boxes.’

Embossed stainless-steel panels within soffits have been used to reflect the activity on different floors and reclaimed pine timber from a local factory floor is being fitted into ceilings to add ’warmth, heritage and drama’, says Baggott.

Seating is being designed with further reference to locality in mind. Bench seating and shared tables ’define small pockets of space’, says Baggott, who has used finishes inspired by markets.

’White marble is being used which will feel high quality, but also look like a slab that might be used by a fishmonger,’ he says.

This will be finished with lighting that ’picks up on the warmth of seating’, says Baggott, who has chosen bronze detailing to frame lighting fixtures.

Westfield Stratford City commissions

  • A lighting concept designed by Lee Broom for entrance halls leading into Stratford City
  • A Jason Bruges-designed digital water feature using light to represent water as an illusory waterfall
  • A public art installation, created by Tatiana Echeverri Fernandez, based on reclaimed escalator stair treads

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