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Published in 2A Magazine Issue #15&16 Autumn 2010 Winter  2011

Farshid Moussavi

Farshid Moussavi is an architect, co-founder of Foreign OfficeArchitects (FOA) and Professor in Practice of Architecture at Harvard University Graduate School of Design. Educated at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, University College, London and Dundee University, Moussavi is a principle at FOA and has taught at various institutions worldwide. She has published two books, ‘The Function of Ornament’ and ‘The Function of Forms’, based on her research and teaching at Harvard. Moussavi has served on key design advisory panels and international design juries including the Mayor of London’s “Design for London” advisory group and the Stirling Prize. She is a trustee of the Whitechapel Gallery in London and the London Architecture Foundation, and is a member of the Steering Committee of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture.



FOA profile

Founded in London in 1993, Foreign Office Architects (FOA) has emerged as one of the most innovative and creative design firms working today, integrating architecture, urban design, and landscape architecture in a wide range of projects internationally. The project that established the practice’s reputation was the Yokohama Port Terminal in Japan, an imaginative hybrid of non-Cartesian industrial infrastructure and versatile social functionality, which architects and critics have called one of the most influential works of architecture of the last decade. Since then, FOA has amassed a diverse portfolio of built works around the world, ranging from transportation facilities to social housing projects.


Leicester, UK

Client: Hammerson PLC

Completion: 2008

Total Area: 34,000m (2)

Budget: £44 million


Awards:  2009 RIBA Award; Retail Architect of the Year Award; Conde Nast Traveller Design and Innovation Award, Civic Trust Award and Special Award


Commissioned within a larger city centre regeneration scheme, the John Lewis Department Store and Cineplex challenge the conventional blank envelopes which typify these buildings and explore ways for them to connect to an urban context. The concept for the John Lewis store is a net curtain, providing privacy to the interior without blocking natural light. The design of the store provides the retail flexibility required without removing the urban experience from shopping. The store cladding is designed as a double glazed façade with a pattern introduced, like a net curtain. This enables a controlled transparency between the store interiors and the city, allowing views of the exterior and natural light to penetrate the retail floors whilst future-proofing the store towards changes in layout.  The store is therefore able to reconfigure its interiors without compromising on its exterior appearance.


The use of pattern draws inspiration from Leicester’s 200 years of textiles and weaving, the translucency of saris worn by the Indian population living in Leicester and John Lewis’ own tradition of producing quality fabrics. The pattern is formed of four panels of varying density which allow for a variable degree of transparency which meet seamlessly across the perimeter, producing a textile-like cladding. The curtain concept is extended to the cinema as an opaque stainless steel rain screen. The stainless steel façade is treated in mirror finish and pleated at different scales to diffuse the large volume into a series of smaller reflective surfaces. The stainless steel curtain pleats at two scales; the larger scale contains services and the smaller scale is achieved through using stainless steel panels fixed in a shingle pattern.


Sectional Axonometric through Department Store exterior envelope

Ground Floor  –  Level 1                                                                                                                                                  Proposed FOA Scheme – Open Street









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