Foster + Partners have designed two flagship stores for the newly rebranded luxury lifestyle company, Asprey. The first of these, which opened in November 2003, is spectacularly located at the base of Trump Tower at 56th Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The store is built on three floors alongside Trump Tower’s imposing main entrance, and occupies almost the full height of the building’s lowest levels, where the massing is stepped. While respectful of the towering façade, the Asprey store is by no means overshadowed by it. Clearly defined as a discrete entity, it is marked out by the strong vertical lines of its glazed frontage, by the brilliant white recesses behind the glass (the exterior and interior are painted with a high-gloss car-body finish), and by the company’s sign, which runs horizontally between the middle and top floors. The windows are set on a granite base, again with the ‘Asprey’ logo carved into the stone.
Luxury and authentic British style are the keynotes, and the aim of the design was to achieve a contemporary re-interpretation of the Asprey’s London tradition, harmonising it with the New York context. Thus the design contains strong echoes of a bow-fronted Victorian shop, but in this case the entrance is flanked by bow windows that are sleek, fluid and of a height and scale unimaginable in a 19th century London street. The central entrance, opening into a three-storey void, helps to express this mix of tradition and uncluttered modernity: to achieve it, one of the building’s main structural columns had to be moved back into the interior of the store.
Inside, the broad pale floors of British limestone and luxurious Wilton carpet, the grand marble staircases with their glass balustrades and bronze handrails, and the translucent elevators create a feeling of ease, opulence, light and spaciousness. To mitigate the transparency of the dramatically tall windows, they are veiled with ‘curtains’ made up of rows of fine bronze rods. Meanwhile, all the glass in the store, including the mirrors and balustrades, is very low in iron, making it completely clear, with no green tinge.
At 20,000 sq ft, the interior provides an unusuallly generous retail area in which to display products ranging from jewellery, silver, watches, pens, leather goods and china, to luxury ready-to-wear and fashion accessories. Some of the display cases are inserted into the building’s columns. Others, designed for Foster + Partners by the Italian firm Molteni, are made of traditional materials – mahogany, bronze and glass – and refer to the original Asprey display cases. However, they look seamlessly contemporary, and are subtly lit with fibre-optics. The mezzanines between the floors are used to showcase Asprey’s collection of rare books, and the store’s antique furniture and carpets have been selected for Asprey by interior designer David Mlinaric.