Jigsaw is an enlightened patron of innovative architecture. Branson Coates and John Pawson have designed branches in Knightsbridge and Bond Street respectively, and the company has also used younger practices, such as the Richmond-based Tugman Partnership which has an average staff age of 28. Commissions include work abroad in Japan, Denmark and Dubai as well as in the UK. Besides designing many stores for the mainstay womenswear brand, the partnership has been responsible for one of the company's earliest ventures into separate branches for menswear in Manchester, and its first for children's wear in Richmond.
According to Hugo Tugman, it is men rather than women shoppers who need to be lulled into a sense of security by the shop interior, and cajoled into imagining they are in a soothing environment, far removed from anything so mundane as a 'shop', by tables, comfortable chairs, low lighting - commercial clubland, in other words.
This point is beautifully illustrated in the Tugman design for Jigsaw's menswear store in King Street, Manchester, which was developed in close collaboration with Chris Bailey of Jigsaw, and as a result, Tugman believes, was 'the first to encapsulate the characteristic spirit of Jigsaw Menswear'. It occupies the ground floor of a nineteenth-century brickwork and terracotta building next to DKNY. It has 'a controlled industrial feel': lighting is subdued, materials are chunky. The air-conditioning is housed in a handsome stainless-steel duct which runs the length of the building, power conduits follow a regular ceiling grid and Habitat pendant lights are cunningly glorified by a steel housing specially designed by the architect.
The floor steps up gradually through three levels (there is a side ramp for wheelchairs), incorporating granite setts, screed and reclaimed elm boards. Walls are finished in a sand-and-cement render with a translucent paint finish; display tables have limestone tops on rendered plinths.
This hard-edged yet plush environment is worlds away from the over-lit, shop-till-you-drop atmosphere of the standard department store.
Not surprisingly, the problem of designing shops for children's wear is one of scale - presenting smaller objects that are within reach and yet do not appear as mere skirting to the main space. At Jigsaw Junior in Richmond, the Tugman Partnership has devised a modular system which allows goods to be stacked in drawers, and displayed on shelves or rails. Made in white lacquered or cherry veneered MDF, the system furnishes the space and places clothes at heights that are comfortable for both children and adults. Fluorescent ambient lighting is concealed by horizontal beams, behind which plain white walls arch over the junction between wall and ceiling.
The majority of Jigsaw shops still cater for women. In the Victoria Quarter in Leeds, the Tugman Partnership developed translucent screens made of sanded acrylic to provide a backdrop to window displays. Inside the shop, where support systems could not be attached to the listed facade, a suspended shelf system based on four tension wires supports glass shelving, while steel-clad rails rotate and lock into position to allow goods to be displayed front-on or sideways.
Jigsaw continues to expand its UK operations, and two more branches, also designed by the Tugman Partnership, have opened in the past few months - a new menswear branch in Nottingham, and a women's shop in Edinburgh. The young practice is clearly enjoying working with this dynamic client. 'It's interesting evolving with them; they're constantly shifting, moving on, ' says Hugo Tugman .
CREDITS ARCHITECT The Tugman Partnership
STRUCTURAL ENGINEER Dewhurst Macfarlane
CONTRACTORS RBS Shopfitters (Manchester, Leeds); Cliff Building by Design (Richmond)
SUBCONTRACTORS AND SUPPLIERS specialist paint finish Richard Clark, air-conditioning Mersh Air Conditioning, metalwork Jomar Engineering; Bowman Engineering, joinery Opus magnum; John Fabrich; Crompton Joinery, stone Stonell, security grilles Holgate Shutters & Blinds, glass Compass Glass, flooring Hewetson Hardwood Floors (CFS)