Shopping Mall, Edinburgh Retail : New Town Building
St James Centre
Food Court Refurbishment, St James Centre - Shopping Mall, Edinburgh, Scotland by Comprehensive Design Architects (CDA)
ST JAMES, FOOD ON 1: EDINBURGH SHOPPING CENTRE
St James Centre: 0131 557 0050
The St James 'Food on 1' is a £2.7m conversion of a previously not very desirable and unlettable upper level of the St James Centre.
St James Centre - images from CDA Architects
Following the expansion of the John Lewis department store into the former food court of the St James Centre, LaSalle Investment Management instructed CDA to create the new 'Food on 1' offer. Which provides a 450 seat café/restaurant subdivided into three offers with a range of seating areas from banquette and booth seating to traditional restaurant layout. New public toilets, baby change and first aid facility are included and a new fully glazed lift links the car park and shopping mall levels. The St James shopping mall is also linked to 'Food on 1' via a translucent glass clad escalator and stainless steel and glass stair.
The real design challenge was to create a large seating area successfully in an existing area of the shopping centre with low concrete soffits, no obvious controlling geometry and therefore fairly fragmented spaces. The St James Centre ceiling heights would be inevitably low for a food offer of this size and air handling ducts could potentially result in lower ceilings.
The solution at the St James Centre was to create a series of sliding ceiling planes that allowed ceilings to be increased in height where the existing structure allowed and reduce in height at the perimeters to accommodate the air conditioning ductwork. Painting the ceilings bright shades of white and dark grey at intersections created the illusion of floating planes whilst enabling air supply and extract grilles to be incorporated. These varying ceiling planes also provided a method to establish a controlling geometry and sub-divide the space through an otherwise amorphous plan.
image from CDA Architects
The ceiling height is further accentuated by the dark slate floor and neutral wall finishes. To add interest to the floor and reflect an existing 60° geometry from the shopping centre through the St James Centre food court, maple strips were inserted within the slate. This also adds some lightness to a floor, otherwise kept dark over-all to lift the ceiling visually.
The 60° geometry is also reflected in angular shards of colour through the ceilings linked by translucent light boxes. The colour reflects a bold and modern image for the 'Food on 1' using furniture, wall and ceiling planes in canary yellow, ochre and cobalt blue. A range of moulded plastic sculptural furniture in the same colours further emphasises the young image. The St James Centre lighting combines recessed column and wall uplighters to keep the ceiling planes bright with low voltage spotlights arranged along main circulation routes. The light boxes are set at the 60° geometry and bisect the various ceiling level planes creating interest and colour as well as linking the seating areas that are subdivided in a response to low ceilings.
The light boxes occupy a shallow depth in the ceiling and are back illuminated using a highly translucent vinyl that also offers 70% light emittance. The light boxes give the impression of depth above the ceiling. The back illumination is by fluorescent tubes with a mix of white and coloured sleeved tubes. The St James Centre lighting control system switches from white to colour illumination on a timer to vary the mood of the space. Colour cathode at perimeters emphasises the floating ceiling planes.
CDA liaised with Kone to ensure that the otherwise standard MRL lift at the St James Centre was fully glazed to create an overall steel and glass composition for the lift and stair wrapping around it. This St James Centre design maintained the modern imagery whilst minimising visual obstruction at mall level.
CDA set out to create a new image for the St James Centre and with the mix of colour, modern fittings and imaginative handling of ceiling planes this has been successfully achieved at the new 'Food on 1'.
St James Centre, Edinburgh is often voted the most disliked building in Scotland but is still a popular Edinburgh Shopping Centre: