Xintiandi, a neighborhood of traditional shikumen (stone gate) houses just outside the center of Shanghai, in an area once known as the French Concession (1849–1946), is poised to become the city’s luxury shopping district, as several new high-end retail developments replace historic row houses in this 27-square-block, pedestrian-oriented area. The neighborhood is part of a larger master rehabilitation plan for the center of Shanghai, being overseen by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.
It is within the Xintiandi development that diamond purveyor Harry Winston chose to capitalize on this urban transformation and locate its flagship store in the now-trendy locale. The designers behind the store concept and layout are Studio Sofield, who oversaw the interiors and new façade, and Cline Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design (CBBLD), who lent their lighting expertise.
At Harry Winston, the client comes first, followed closely by the company’s trademark diamonds—both of which CBBLD was asked to cast in the best possible light. As lighting designer and CBBLD principal Francesca Bettridge explains, this particular location served as a prototype for the retailer to showcase new ideas for merchandising and branding. But for the store to stand out in the already visually compelling atmosphere of Xintiandi, Studio Sofield wanted something eye catching to entice potential customers. For this, CBBLD devised a design that responded to a request from Studio Sofield principal Bill Sofield: to make the entrance feel like a vertical marquee. “We eventually came up with a detail that’s a PAR 46 lamp with a wide flood,” Bettridge explains. The fixtures are dimmed to a light level that draws attention without blinding passersby (approximately 30 percent). CBBLD also added 3000K LED strips beneath each of the three steps leading up to the store’s entrance, so that the steps and the entrance façade appear to float.
Once inside the store, the focus is on the jewelry. “With diamonds, you can’t put enough light on them,” Bettridge says. “Diamonds like small point sources because they capture the many facets [of the gems]. They like cool-temperature sources—4000K or slightly higher.” To highlight the jewelry on display, the custom wall vitrines have 4100K LED strips, vertically oriented and concealed from view, positioned inside and tucked up in a slot. Working in concert, but not visible to the shopper are 4000K LED spotlights with a few 3000K LED spots to highlight the colored gems. All of the free-standing display cabinets contain miniature 4000K LED striplights to illuminate the jewels. In the public areas of the store, additional 4000K ceramic metal-halide accentlights are aimed directly over the cases. Illuminated coves, outfitted with 3000K white LEDs, provide ambient light, while the private sales rooms upstairs employ a combination of coves and wall sconces to create a more residential feel.
The main challenge for CBBLD lay in the fact that while diamonds may like cooler light (preferably in the 4000K range), people generally look better under warmer light (3000K and below). In a retail environment, where clients are trying on jewelry in front of a mirror, the goal is to make both the jewelry and its potential buyer look as attractive as possible. After several in-house mock-ups, CBBLD came up with the appropriate combination of sources with just the right beam angles in which to position the luminaires so that they would simultaneously illuminate and highlight the client and the jewels.
In the private sales rooms, where the architecture and lighting are designed to make the customer feel at home, the real sales magic happens with more subtly placed luminaires. Above the desk, three recessed fixtures with 4000K 10-degree lamps aim straight down on the desk highlighting the diamonds. Behind and above the sales person, two recessed accent fixtures with 3000K MR16 floodlamps cast a warm glow on the face of the guest. Adjacent to those fixtures, two cool spotlights with narrow beams (10 degrees) are aimed toward a client’s chest, so that if a client puts on a necklace, the jewelry comes alive, sparkling. Dimmers underneath the sales desk allow these two sets of fixtures to be individually controlled. It wasn’t until Bettridge had the opportunity to demonstrate the individual controls for those fixtures that the representatives from Harry Winston fully realized what a transformative experience that CBBLD had created.
“When we were demonstrating the lights, I sat in the salesperson’s chair, and slowly increased the warm colors,” Bettridge explains. “Then one of the salespeople sat in the guest’s chair and put on this unbelievable necklace of diamonds and sapphires. Underneath the desk, I turned on the spots aimed at her chest, and it was as if the necklace burst into flames.” Wall-mounted mirrors—adjacent to seating and table areas—have custom-designed sconces with 3000K warm-white T5 fluorescents, vertically positioned along the height of the mirror, to bathe the client in warm light, while another custom-designed, dimmable 4000K cool-white LED accent fixture above the mirror highlights the jewelry below shoulder level.
With the success of the Shanghai store’s lighting prototype, CBBLD is now involved in retrofitting and designing the new stores for the rest of Harry Winston’s showrooms worldwide with the same warm-and-cool lighting strategy in each’s private sales area; this has become the standard setup for the retailer. In the jewelry business, that’s the kind of sparkle that sells.
Project: Harry Winston Shanghai Pavilion, Shanghai • Client: Harry Winston, New York • Architect: Studio Sofield, New York • Architect of Record: Gruen Associates, Los Angeles • Lighting Designer: Cline Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design, New York • Project Size: 5,800 square feet • Watts per Square Foot: Complies with ASHRAE 90.1 • Energy Compliance: Complies with local code • Manufacturers/Applications: Erco (3000K, 70W T6 metal halides at skylight exterior); GE Lighting (3000K white, surface-mounted linear LED steplights at entrance); Lucifer (3000K and 4000K MR16 luminaires at private sales rooms); Philips Color Kinetics (3000K white linear LED covelights); Specialty Lighting Industries (3000K linear, recess-mounted LED wallgrazer); Viabizzuno (4100K white, surface-mounted LED vitrine lights)