This project seeks to demonstrate that the key to good supermarket design is the promotion of place – and integral to this is the importance of sensitive scaling, well-considered geometry and thoughtful materiality. Located on a key arterial route into the city centre of Chester, UK, the scheme comprises a new flagship Waitrose retail store together with a fully integrated public realm including a new pedestrian bridge across the canal.
The project is designed as a southern gateway to the city’s Central Business Quarter, which also includes another of our projects - a mixed-use scheme on the opposite side of the canal, incorporating Chester’s protected shot tower and former lead works. The shot tower, built in 1799, is probably the oldest such structure still standing in the world and, at around 51m, the tallest building in Chester. It was used for dropping molten lead through a copper sieve at the top of the tower so that the falling drops formed balls of lead shot for muskets used in the Napoleonic Wars.
CLARITY AND SIMPLICITY
Within its historic urban setting, the clarity and elemental simplicity of the supermarket’s colonnade design provide an elegant, rhythmic module that unifies the building’s appearance, creating a strong civic presence. Active frontages along the principal facades engage with the surrounding area. This is particularly evident in the design of the retail units along Boughton Road, which animate the streetscape along a key route into the city centre.
Central to the scheme’s public realm is a sloped walkway that runs parallel to the building’s west elevation and travelator hall. This allows the lower level car parking to be concealed, while providing level access to the new footbridge that links directly with the wider Chester Central master-plan. The specific alignment of the supermarket and the adjoining walkway, moreover, essentially enhance views of the shot tower from Boughton Road, thus providing this historic structure with a new urban purpose as a way-finding device for the rail station and the Chester Business Quarter.
From a tectonic standpoint, the Waitrose store is articulated as a steel frame construction with the first floor constructed from precast hollow-core concrete planks topped with a structural concrete screed. The colonnade and primary structural elements expressed on the exterior of the building are set out on a 7.9m structural grid and clad in sheet bronze, with the principal elevations being clad in either perforated bronze sheets or glazed with a curtain wall capped with perforated bronze fins. Both are set out vertically on a 1.128m grid sub-module of the primary structural grid.
STRONG NATURAL COLOUR
Bronze was selected at an early design stage. We wanted to use a material for the expressed frame that would reference the area’s industrial heritage, particularly of metalworking. In addition, the strong, natural colour of the weathering bronze complements the surrounding historic brick and sandstone buildings. From the outset, the BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rated project was committed to reducing the energy demands of the building. The design and orientation of the travelator hall on the west elevation, for example, allow it to passively heat the store; while the use of perforated bronze fins, attached to the glazed curtain wall mullions, provides solar shading during the most intense sunlight, so reducing demand on the air conditioning system. Furthermore, the abundance of natural daylight to the main public entrance lobbies and travelator hall reduces the requirement for artificial lighting during the day