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Through the Shop Window

In the spring of 2015, the Through the Shop Window exhibition featured at Shanghai Fashion Week as fashion and architecture met again, when RIBA architects took over the retail windows in Shanghai’s most famous shopping plaza, Xintiandi Style, and showcased their talents as part of the RIBA Shanghai Windows Project 2015.

Shopping, regarded by many as the nation’s favourite pastime is driven by our desire for ever new, constantly changing fashions and goods. In turn the demands of our shopping habits has led to the rapidly, ever changing architecture and design of shops. By their very nature shop designs and displays tend to be very ephemeral, quickly consigned to history and only recorded for posterity by the photographer’s camera or the architect’s pen.

Through the Shop Window captures the evolution of British shopping trends in the middle of the twentieth century beginning with the stylish glamour of Art Deco, its glitz and chrome a luxurious antidote to the harsh times of the Depression. After the Second World War’s austerity came Modernism, far simpler, yet often extremely elegant with large picture windows rendering the shop fronts almost transparent, their interiors revealed to all. Witness how many of the photographs displayed here were photographed at night emphasizing their theatricality and tempting you to enter. Then finally the vitality of the “Swinging Sixties” with that coolest destination of all, London’s Carnaby Street.

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Black & White Milk Bar, Gray's Inn Road, London, at night

RIBA2561-10
Brown, Sir John (1880-1958)

Habitat shop at night, Fulham Road, London

RIBA2655-15
Conran, Sir Terence Orby (1931-)

Wayang Coffee Lounge, 207 Earl's Court Road, London, by night

RIBA3354-53
Mellinger, Lucas Emmanuel (1921-2006)
NOTES: The establishment took its theme and name from Javanese 'wayang' shadow-puppets, projections of which are features of the interior decoration.

Habitat crockery and household wares

RIBA4982
Conran, Sir Terence Orby (1931-)

Jaeger shop, Manchester: wool department

RIBA11098
Lennon, Dennis (1918-1991)

Austin Reed Ltd., 103-113 Regent Street, London: the red lacquer room

RIBA11626
P. J. Westwood & Emberton
NOTES: Percy James Westwood was in partnership with Joseph Emberton from 1922 to 1926.

Austin Reed, 103-113 Regent Street, London: the barber's saloon

RIBA11628
P. J. Westwood & Emberton
NOTES: Percy James Westwood was in partnership with Joseph Emberton from 1922 to 1926. The lighting scheme was manufactured by Harcourts Ltd of Birmingham.

Electricity Showrooms, Cannon Street, City of London

RIBA17079
Gropius & Fry
NOTES: This image was included in the books 'Smaller Retail Shops' (London: Architectural Press, 1937) by Bryan and Norman Westwood. It appeared in the publication on p.93.

Russell & Bromley shoe shop, Ealing, London, by night

RIBA17160
Entwistle, Clive (1916-1976)

Cresta Silks dress shop, Brompton Road, London

RIBA19015
Coates, Wells Wintemute (1895-1958)

Gay Kaye Ltd handbag shop, 4 New Bond Street, London

RIBA25386
Speight, Sadie (1906-1992)

Keddies Department Store, Southend-on-Sea, Essex: escalator to first floor

RIBA25415
Yorke Rosenberg & Mardall
NOTES: This store occupied two storeys of a mixed use block: the second and third floors were used for parking and the eight top floors for offices. The store ceased trading in the mid 1990s.
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