Located in the former site of Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, it sits metres from their old store which was its home for over 100 years. Designed by Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, Foyles will sell a range of over 200,000 different titles on four miles (6.5km) of shelves. With 37,000 square feet of flexible retail space, spread across eight shop floors in the two halves of the four storey building, the interior layout allows for easy navigation and the serendipitous discovery of new books.
The scheme strips away a century’s ad hoc accretions to reveal the original structure of the old art school building. By enlarging the existing central lightwell, an atrium is created which floods daylight into the centre of the building. The whole bookshop is manifest and easily accessible, with only one short flight of stairs required to connect between each floor section and glazed fronted lifts servicing each shop floor.
There were significant challenges to the change in use from art school to bookshop. Low ceiling heights mean that services such as heating and cooling need to be tightly packed. Rather than concealing them behind a suspended ceiling, which would have reduced the spatial quality, they are on view in their foil wrappings. Hanging below them are a sequence of lighting tracks supporting the latest low glare LED light fittings.
The handsome exterior of the building has been cleaned and restored and a new rear extension enlarges the ground, first and second floors. A roof extension is clad in carefully detailed zinc and complements the beautifully crafted original brickwork below.
The spaces inside the store are open, light and designed to be flexible: giving the bookseller great freedom in setting out the departments and the displays to respond to changing book reading patterns. A new cafe, gallery and event space provide the facilities for an ambitious programme of in-store events. At the rear of the ground floor is the original assembly hall and gym – a magnificent space that was used to host meetings and dances. A mezzanine was subsequently added, which largely destroyed its volumetric quality: the conversion has removed a significant part to restore the double-height space.