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Armani Fifth Avenue, New York City, USA

Issue 51 Oct / Nov 2009 : Retail : Store



Speirs and Major Associates’ scheme for Armani Fifth Avenue is finally complete with the installation of the media façade LED system.

The installation is complete. The video content has been programmed. The new media façade at Armani Fifth Avenue is now fully functional and creating a classy distraction for New York shoppers.

Speirs and Major Associates first began its association with Giorgio Armani with the flagship store in Tokyo’s Ginza district, designed by Fuksas Architects. Since then, the UK designers have worked on successive Armani stores in Milan, Beijing and Hong Kong. The opening of Armani Fifth Avenue, also by Fuksas, was timed to coincide with New York fashion week on February 16th 2009 and was therefore built to a very tight deadline, some three months ahead of the original schedule.

The Fifth Avenue design presented several unique challenges, yet the essence of the scheme was to evolve and perfect the approach that had begun in Ginza in 2007. The lighting had to respond to both the overall shop image and a strict requirement to conceal the lighting equipment at all times.

The approach within the retail areas builds on basic principles of lighting merchandise but takes them to an extreme level of precision. An RSA 305mm-wide slot system developed for the original Ginza store – to produce punchy accent light and conceal the fittings as much as possible – was honed and refined to make it even more discreet for the New York store.

White walls and highly reflective black floors set a high-contrast tone. “The clothes do the talking,” says Keith Bradshaw, director at Speirs and Major Associates. “We couldn’t light as many vertical surfaces here because the white walls act as wardrobes and potential display areas, so wallwashing was out of the question.”

Essentially colour temperatures on the clothing are cool to warm, offsetting the warmer white on the staircase. “We wanted to have a distinction between the retail fashion areas and the circulation route,” says Bradshaw.

Whilst the interior lighting scheme was completed on time, the specification of the Martin LC Plus LED video screen on the façade of the building just fell short. Therefore, a temporary scheme was installed for the store opening while some of the final manufacturing details were resolved. A temporary screen was kept in place until the correct time could be found to remove it and install the finished article.

The Martin LC Plus is a modular system of semi-transparent LED video panels with new generation technology that closely integrates light, video and set design for new possibilities in indoor and outdoor staging. Designed for the demanding rental and staging market, yet equally suitable for fixed installations such as retail environments and outdoor architecture, the LC Plus is an easy-to-use, all-in-one video solution. It offers several key advantages over other types of LED panels including an innovative P3 technology platform for no-hassle processing and signal distribution, low weight, superior colour and brightness uniformity, and true IP65 protection.

The façade was conceived as an animated glass box where the transparency of the screen would be a key feature of its lit appearance. Imagery on a dark background floats across the face of the glass box in an enigmatic manner allowing views through. The planning restriction by the Fifth Avenue Association only allowed 20 sqft of lit signage so the design could not be an explicitly branded piece. The design detail for the screen was realised as a low resolution art screen series of vertical mirror polished bars with LEDs mounted 100mm centre to centre vertically. The density of the bars is 200mm apart at its closest and are co-ordinated with mullion positions in the glass box. The spacing between the bars increase at a density of 200mm (ie. 400mm, 800mm, 1600mm, 3200mm) down 56th Street. This method creates a strong image at the corner of the street for maximum impact with a decreasing intensity showing the extent of the store. This well co-ordinated art screen approach, where the bars create a minimal intrusion to the transparency of the glass box, was approved by the planning department.

“The idea was that the content would reflect the merchandise in the store. The staircase was conceived as a wisp of smoke, so the video content reflects that with images of drifting smoke patterns,” says Bradshaw.

As in any quality media-driven screen, the content is vitally important. Given the limitations on brand identity the content is updated on a six-monthly cycle to match the fashion calendar with subtle themes that are associated with the story of the brand. The animations, created by Milan-based design studio April, tell a story in an abstract manner allowing for beautiful shapes and forms to sit alongside some more detailed elements that can be understood from across the street or several blocks away.

Internally in the restaurant area the bars also have inward facing LEDs that play at a very low intensity and are mounted on an opaque curtain to soften the light and filter views of the street below. The low end light output of the LED was carefully managed to make sure that subtle and low intensity animation could be programmed for the interior facing LEDs adjacent to restaurant diners. The LED and cover lenses were seamlessly integrated into the bar design. A viewing angle of 150 degrees was maintained to allow the screen content to be seen up and down Fifth Avenue.

Project Details
Armani, New York City
Client: Giorgio Armani
Lighting Design: Speirs and Major Associates
Architecture: Fuksas Architects
Photography: Allan Toft

Lighting Specified
• Martin: LC Plus LED profiles for facade
• Philips Color Kinetics: iColor Cove MX Powercore (curtain wall)
• Pharos lighting control system
• ERCO: Stella high level mounted spots
• ETC: Source 4s in ceiling recess
• Lucifer: low voltage downlights
• Lutron: Grafik Eye 7000 lighting control system
• National Cathode: cold cathode backlighting to mirrors
• OSRAM: LinearLight self-adhesive LED tape (staircase)
• RSA: custom trough system featuring CDMR111 10 degree lamps to the merchandise


The spacing between the Martin LC Plus LED bars increase at a density of 200mm (ie. 400mm, 800mm, 1600mm, 3200mm) down 56th Street. This method creates a strong image at the corner of the street for maximum impact with a decreasing intensity showing the extent of the store.

Photography: Allan Toft

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