In the athletic apparel market, competition is fierce and has primarily been dominated by the Nike company. However, instead of following the leader, Under Armour has focused on what makes it unique and become the second most popular athletic apparel brand in the U.S. as
a result, according to Business Insider.
So when it came time to boldly announced its presence in Chicago in 2015
after having successfully opened retail spaces in Baltimore and New York, the
design team at A+I took on its third project for Under Armour, and aimed to
build a space that represents the company’s strong identity and brand values,
as well as creating a consistent retail experience across locations.
As a result, A+I (Architecture Plus Information) designed various themes
from surface applications, to fixtures, to treatment of counter and display
areas, which were adapted and tweaked according to the needs and
constraints of each location. Among the parameters facing the design team
was how to strengthen the presence of the rotunda and corner volume of the
entrance. In order to meet the client’s desire to go with a black metal look, the
design team at A+I looked at various material options before ultimately deciding
on Pure + Freeform for the exterior cladding.
Pure + Freeform is a bespoke metal company breaking the perception of
metal as something basic, rigid, and monotonous. Their finishes are fully
customizable—from color to gloss, design and panel type—and use the
most modern design techniques and technology available.
i+s recently sat down with Will Rosebro, director of operations at A+I,
about Under Armour’s move to the Windy City, and how the firm approached
material selection for this project:
i+s: What are the main design features you would like to call
attention to in this project?
Will Rosebro: The rotunda, which spans over two floors and houses
connecting escalators and elevator, and corner volume. This architectural
element already existed when UA moved to the space, and strengthening
its presence was essential. The building’s façade doesn’t create a clear outline
of the UA store, so the volume and rotunda were all the more important.
The building is located on Chicago’s historic Magnificent Mile so we had
to design within a variety of specific constraints and codes. The application of
exterior signage was limited, so we introduced a digital ceiling with an LED
display, a graphic banner in the rotunda, as well as a LED banner in the rotunda—
all visible from the outside through the windows of the corner volume.
i+s: What was the thought process behind material selection and
WR: In keeping with the iconic Baltimore store front, we designed the
Chicago location with a dark entrance—in this case the entire exterior of the
rotunda. The client liked blackened steel; however, steel was challenging to
accommodate in the project’s budgetary and time constraints.
Pure+Freeform offered a new technology which allowed for the color
palette we needed to be printed on any surface. The pattern chosen for
the Chicago store fit our needs for lead time and pricing, and the product is
durable and has a very long guarantee.
i+s: What were some of the challenges you faced during the project?
WR: It was a complex install completed on a tight timeline in difficult conditions—
two weeks in the dead of a Chicago winter. Pure+Freeform [was] very responsive
to our deadlines and able to get all custom panels on site when needed. There
were framing modifications needing to be made after demo of the existing
cladding in order to make our panels fit, but it was all able to be done in the
field with partnership from the GC architect and cladding installer. We are very
satisfied with the finished product, and it’s holding up very well.
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BACK IN BLACK
A+I delivers a stunning entry to Under Armour’s new Chicago flagship store.
By Robert Nieminen | Photography courtesy of A+I