News of projects relating the Westfield Stratford City has been trickling in to Design Week for what feels like a retail filled eternity.
With the mall opening this morning, we headed east to have a snoop around the east London behemoth, which according to Westfield, is Europe’s biggest urban shopping centre.
The huge face of the recently unbranded Starbucks mermaid greets us from Stratford station – which flows into the centre almost as soon as you’re out the Oyster gates.
As it turns out, she’s the first in a bizarre cast of characters at the opening including suncreamed topless men, a cheering mob of Apple Mac staff high-fiveing their queuing customers; Nicole Scherzinger, Boris Johnson, and a town crier.
To the right of the entrance is the imposing Marks & Spencer, the first of two pilot stores to debut the chain’s new ‘segmented’ approach to store navigation and interiors.
M & S is linked to fellow anchor store John Lewis by the enormous central glass ceiling panel – the largest pane of glass ever used in a UK retail centre – which snakes across the roof, giving the feeling of being in an elaborate fishtank.
While this feature capitalises on the sunlight on a sunny day like today, Jason Bruges’s Digital Waterfall installation outside unfortunately suffers from it instead. Sadly for Bruges’s monolith, the digital lights that aim to represent
flowing water are all but lost in the sun’s glare.
Sadly we couldn’t find the Ann Summers flagship, designed an part of Fitch’s overhaul of the brand, with interiors using brand guidelines created by 2020, though we were impressed wit the pretty miniature red lights hanging over the Yo! Sushi concept, designed by Philip Watts Design.
The rustic, delicatessen feel of the Great Eastern Food succeeded in creating a contrast to the main food court and the rest of the centre’s bight whites and golds; while large touchscreen interactive directories provide information and can create personalised shopping maps that helpfully establish the best routes from shop to shop.
In one of Design Week’s initial Stratford related stories, we reported that it was set to be very different from its west London counterpart in White City, and it certainly is.
Though Stratford is larger – 177,000 m2 of retail space to White City’s 150,000m² – it feels cramped and slightly jumbled. Reflecting the surreal juxtaposition we saw at 9.11am of men in suits sipping champagne; next to bunking schoolgirls eating McDonald’s, many of the Westfield’s spaces seem a bizarre mix for such a large development.
However, with so many big brands making the centre the location for its flagship stores, or the place to debut highly innovative retail concepts, it’ll be interesting to see how brands use the space in future.
Westfield Stratford City opens today