If you’re like us, you took a few steps into one of UNIQLO’s pop-up stores over the summer and turned around, not because you weren’t grabbed by the futuristic aesthetic of the Japanese clothing retailer, but because the crowds were overwhelming. Now, UNIQLO has opened two more permanent locations: its 89,000-square-foot global flagship store at 666 Fifth Avenue between 52nd and 53rd Streets and a 64,000-square-foot outlet on 34th Street (the third is on Broadway in SoHo) which deserve a closer look not only if you’re looking to update your wardrobe, but also from design, construction, and advanced building technology perspectives.
Each of the spaces was designed by Tokyo-based interior design firm Wonderwall in concert with executive architect Gensler here in New York. The flagship Fifth Avenue location, which opened on October 14, features a 50,000-square-foot sales floor, four glass elevators, and three 60-foot escalators, surrounded by a staircase backlit with LEDs. Over 300 LCD screens provide digital signage throughout the space. The screens were custom-engineered for UNIQLO so multiple screens could be mounted together rather than individually. 175 audio speakers complement the video installation, washing the store in a wave of sight and sound. Both the elevators and Fifth Avenue storefront also feature custom LED video installations. The 34th Street store opened on October 21 and boasts its own 46,000-square-foot sales floor, two glass elevators, 600 custom-designed mannequins, and a feature staircase, also with LED backlights.
Gensler addressed the energy code concerns implicated by the extensive audiovisual installations through the use of UV-coated insulated glass units (IGUs) and efficient, state-of-the-art mechanical and HVAC systems. Overall, the design of each store strongly emphasizes the visual display components and open spaces: the Fifth Avenue location features a three-story atrium and the stores each offer 100 dressing rooms, 50 cash registers, and hand-held inventory check-out devices. Gilsanz Murray Steficek (structural engineers) and Structure Tone (construction management) were also members of the project team that delivered the two stores.
You may recall that Brooks Brothers formerly occupied UNIQLO’s flagship space at 666 Fifth Avenue, which is part of a Carlyle Group-owned, full-block retail condominium that features 200 linear feet of glass street frontage and is also home to Hollister and the NBA Store. UNIQLO’s $300 million lease was the largest retail deal in the history of New York City when the retailer signed up for the space in April of 2010.