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 specification?
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.