Giancarlo Ricci is an established designer clothing shop in Liverpool, set up ten years ago by ex-fashion designer Harry Goodman. On the once exclusive, but latterly shabby, Bold Street, Giancarlo Ricci has been one of the leaders of Liverpool’s retail renaissance. Goodman has added to the original unit, mostly on the upper floors of the four-storey building, and now sells women’s and men’s clothing, shoes and accessories. A hairdresser’s salon is planned for the top floor.
With the success of bars and restaurants in the nearby Concert Square development, Goodman decided to capitalise on his youthful customer base and diversify into food and drink. He wanted a daytime coffee bar and eaterie which could trade independently at night as a bar, creating in effect a small department store with a link with the nightlife of Concert Square and Bold Street itself, now as busy by night as by day, with designer bars springing up seemingly by the week.
Giving over crucial ground-floor trading space to a potentially under- used cafe was a risk for Goodman, but the resulting low-key insertion by Shed km manages to be accessible without negating the exclusivity of the retail environment. James Weston of Shed km has worked with Goodman on the evolving ricci barcafe project for several years, and knows him as a discerning client willing to get involved in all aspects of the specification.
As with most of the retail units along this street, the space is long and thin. The existing fascia allows tables and chairs to spill out onto the pedestrianised thoroughfare. This has a Planar glazed screen with an angle-frame canopy and wooden door offset and partially screened. To create the night-time focus and link with Concert Square, Shed simply opened up the existing rear of the building to Wood Street with triple- height Planar glazing and gunmetal-grey glazed brickwork at ground level.
The breakthrough adds value to what is at presently mainly a service road but also echoes the original purpose of the area when it was built in the 1780s - fashionable merchants’ houses on Bold Street with their counting houses at the back - fronting on to Wood Street. ‘There is a strong vertical movement up Bold Street,’ explains project architect Mark Sidebotham, ‘but we wanted to cut across into the parallel streets to help enliven the area as well as reinforce ricci’s relationship to Concert Square.’
Internally the solution sits comfortably with the existing retail areas, picking up and softening certain elements. The back of the building was cut out and a mezzanine level added to allow a view of Concert Square. Shed km chose from a deliberately neutral palette with strong colour restricted to one wall only, which has an aquamarine-blue finish. This is the rear plane which is also the central core and takes the servicing and video screens which will present fashion shows.
The dividing wall between cafe and shop has a textured white finish of birch ply and Formica. All planes and elements stress the building’s linearity, rather than hiding it.
Ricci’s strong identity is underscored with an unusual mix of materials: stainless-steel bar, natural slate and oak wooden flooring and a huge 4m high x 4.3m wide door covered in rubber which slides across the shop opening at night. The idea for the rubber door came from the broad widths of flooring made by carpet manufacturers. The bar area takes traditional bar elements but subverts them with fridges lifted to eye level and open shelving above the bar itself.
Subtle changes in floor level and seating areas inform the different moods required for daytime and evening. Rattan cafe furniture for the day is exchanged for crisp blue seating in the evenings. Lighting and music are also integral elements which can change to suit the mood. Simple in both plan and concept, ricci is a strong addition to an area slowly becoming receptive to progressive design ideas.