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For their new flagship on the Champs-Élysées, a historic avenue that has lost some of its lustre, Galeries Lafayette has hired the avant-garde architects of Google’s new HQ.
Halfway up the Avenue des Champs-Élysées on a recent, unseasonably mild Sunday, a crowd surrounded a street performer cartwheeling to electronic dance music in front of a branch of beauty emporium Sephora. Couples and families carrying shopping bags from Abercrombie & Fitch, Nike and H&M paused to watch the show, while clusters of teens filled the sidewalk. A lively high-street scene? Absolutely. A glimpse of high-end Paris? Not so much.
But for Galeries Lafayette, 52 Champs-Élysées marks the site of a future flagship — positioned as an upmarket department store for the 21st century — and a major step towards endowing the legendary boulevard with renewed cachet.
Much depends on its realisation by Danish architectural firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). The company, based in Copenhagen and New York, specialises in unapologetically imposing buildings, from the nearly completed residential project Via 57 on West 57th Street in Manhattan to Google’s glass-roofed future headquarters in Silicon Valley. Galeries Lafayette, however, will be the company’s first retail client.
“It has to be, somehow, the biggest concept store that has been built on the Champs-Élysées,” says Nicolas Houzé, chief executive officer of Galeries Lafayette. […]