Cladding Europe’s largest retail construction project

Europe’s largest retail construction project proved a particularly challenging but ultimately rewarding one for specialist manufacturer AMS and installation partner Paneltec who together designed, supplied and installed cladding solutions over two years to this prestigious scheme.

Product Summary

John Lewis

  •  Internal wall linings/window pods – 650m2 of AMS 2mm PPC aluminium RAL 1035 pearl beige
  •  Restaurant roof terrace soffit –500m2 of 4mm bespoke stainless steel

Shopping parades

  • Lift surrounds – 600m2 of 1mm fused nickel bronze in Vancouver and Seastone and 200m2of AMS 1.5mm stainless steel
  • Pilasters (between retail units) – 75m2 of AMS  20mm stainless steel and 75m2 of 10mm white and grey Corian
  • Columns – 120m2 of AMS 1.5mm stainless steel and 120m2 of 10mm white and grey Corian
  • Escalators and travellators – 70m2 of 1.5mm stainless steel and 70m2of 10mm white and grey Corian

Taxi rank drop-off soffits and walls

  • 250m2 of 3mm AMS PPC aluminium RAL 9006 silver

New office frontage

  • 50m2 of 3mm AMS anodised “bronze” aluminium + 50m2of 50mm x 50mm box sections

Client comment

“The panels met John Lewis expectations and delivered the agreed design concept.”

Jeremy Thornton | Manager Architecture for the John Lewis Partnership 

Project introduction

John Lewis White City. First floor. Photograph: Tony Buckingham.

Westfield London, the first shopping centre opened by the then Westfield Group in the UK in 2008, was a substantial project to bring to fruition.

It took five years to build at a cost of £1.6 billion, with Westfield carrying out the work through its in-house design and construction arm. Now, 10 years after the centre first opened in Shepherd’s Bush, a £600 million expansion, the biggest of its kind underway in Europe, is finally complete.

The extension of Westfield London will create 740,000ftof additional retail, dining, entertainment and leisure space, bringing the total gross leasable area up to 2.6 million ft(450 retail units) across the entire development.

A major target was hit when the 230,000ftflagship John Lewis store was handed over in March 2018 and other retailers continue to come on board, with the expansion set to create an additional 8,000 permanent jobs for the White City area. The project itself involved more than 4,000 workers on site.

Technical information

The collective team from designers and manufacturers AMS and specialist installers Paneltec were present on site for two years as areas became available for them to work on. The first was the flagship John Lewis store, around which the timing of the opening of the whole centre depended, so the programme for this element was particularly tight.

  • The two elements here, the wall linings/window pods and soffit of the restaurant roof terrace, are two of the most striking features of the overall scheme, and the latter, the stainless steel soffit, is unique to the Westfield brand.
  • The beaten-effect finish to the hook-on stainless steel panels is a secret known only to its German sole producers and to understand how the material would work with mechanical secret-fix installation and frequent dismounting to access services required visits to Germany by project director Neal Clark on behalf of AMS and Paneltec.
  • Generally speaking, once this was worked out, the installation of the 4.8m x 1200mm panels by Paneltec was relatively straightforward although the curved corner of the striking John Lewis façade had to be reflected internally and proved even more intricate.
  • Although the combination of mechanical secret-fix with hook-on panels is fairly common in a façade application, it is more unusual in a soffit one and required the use of aluminium towers on the terrace to access the void.
  • The internal wall linings or window pods to most of the internal walls was another challenge with a stunning end result. The 1m x 2m x 800mm aluminium panels here were custom polyester powder coated to a colour specified by John Lewis – RAL 1035 (pearl beige).
  • Designed and fabricated as complete window pods, they were pre-formed in AMS’ factory and then installed on site by Paneltec using structural adhesive. Nevertheless, each one of the dozens of windows from the floors to the ceilings of each of the three floors had to be set out individually, and those on the inside of the curved façade corner, to a tight radius.
  • “It was one of the most demanding designs we have worked to and very intricate work but the end result was worth it. Aluminium was chosen as the lining material as it lends itself to forming bespoke features without loss of strength. AMS’ expertise in manufacture enabled the concept to brought to life ” said Paneltec director Chris Childs.
  • The John Lewis element alone of the Westfield scheme took the Paneltec team four months to complete.
  • The shopping mall involved four elements – the lift areas, columns, pilasters, and escalator and travellator – where the quality feel to the cladding materials was repeated.
  • The lift surrounds were faced with 1mm fused nickel bronze panels in Seastone for the lift doors surrounds and skirting boards while the darker colour Vancouver (from 1800mm x 700mm and 1800mm x 2m panels) was used in large format for panels above the lift door openings. This material was specified by Westfield and sourced by AMS from America.
  • In the lobbies of the lift areas, the skirting boards mellow to 1.5mm stainless steel by AMS, both elements complementing the tiled walls and floors. Paneltec installed these panels using structural adhesive.
  • Some 18 circular “supporting” columns on all three floors featured 20mm stainless steel skirts by AMS and 10mm Corian above which was mechanically secret-fixed by Paneltec and these materials were reflected in the pilasters dividing the retail units.
  • But for the pilasters, the Corian was delivered to AMS’ factory for insertion into the stainless steel “trays”. Some 56 of these 4.2m high and 200mm wide pilasters were installed by mechanical secret-fix using aluminium towers and mini electric scissor lifts.
  • Both the travellator from the car park on the lower ground floor to the ground floor and the escalator from the ground to first floor featured a geometric layout of 3m long white and grey Corian panels with AMS stainless steel skirting boards. These elements were fixed using structural adhesive.
  • And again on the lower ground floor, the drop off point for the taxi rank featured PPC silver 3mm hook-on aluminium panels to the walls and soffit in 1m and 1500mm lengths. Here Paneltec used mechanical secret-fix to install the 1m and 1500m long panels which feature a hook-on system to ease maintenance and cleaning. They also formed a channel through the soffit panels for LED lighting that brings a luxurious aesthetic to this usually utilitarian area.
  • “This part of the project was intricate and it required a lot of coordination with the M&E contractors,” said Chris Childs.
  • The final part of the Westfield project for AMS and Paneltec was a new feature frontage for the centre’s offices.
  • While only a relatively small area (7.5m wide x 6m high), the bespoke bronze-effect cladding of 3mm anodised aluminium base with 50mm x 50mm raised vertical box sections delivers powerful pavement appeal.
  • The base panels were mechanically fixed to an aluminium sub-frame and the box sections secret fixed to the base panels.
  • Chris Childs said: “Westfield London was a very prestigious project to work on but the programmes were very intense. This was due to the nature of the retail sector generally and also because the centre had particularly strict opening and completion dates. We had to work hard to ensure we could complete each element on the desired dates.”