Radice did think fleetingly of Gehry (a hefty book on the Canadian sits on his office desk) but not as the architect for the Birmingham building, because he feared he would be working with Gehry's 'assistants', rather than the man himself.'I wanted to find somebody known, but not superknown, ' he says.Cue Levete and Kaplicky.
But he is not doing this for purely architecturally philanthropic reasons, of course.
'It's not a museum, it's not a sports and leisure centre, it's something in the end that has to make a profit.' Future Systems' task is to provide the shell for the often clashing merchandising messages within.
And yet Radice's 'fantastic' Birmingham Selfridges scheme - for which the company hopes to get planning permission in the next month and to complete in 2003 - is not the only project in its long-term plans.
Radice says that the store is looking tentatively at openings in Glasgow, Newcastle, and possibly Bristol and Cardiff. Some will most likely be conversions of existing buildings, but if there's another 'greenfield site', as he calls it, more 'impact' will be required.Might Future Systems be in with another shout? 'I think we would have to go to and try to find something new to build again, 'he retorts.
And there's more.Having spent £93 million on the Oxford Street headquarters bringing the fabric up to scratch, there are also (fairly) hush hush plans for the area directly behind it. At the moment just half the 100,000m
2site is used for retail. Radical new plans have been drawn up by Foster and Partners to provide 10,000m
2more retail space plus residential facilities, possibly with cinemas, a gym, a restaurant and roof-top viewing from the top of a tower, whose height has yet to be determined. Radice says he chose Foster because of the job's complexity, and, again, because of the personal touch. 'I know Foster, ' he says.'We've been in discussion about this for quite a while. I called him and he was very attentive.The personal relationship is very important.'
Radice points to precedent-giving towers in the area, an 11-floor building, a 16-floor tower and Seifert's 32-floor Centre Point further off. He hopes that the new building will also allow a greater level of permeability and an extension of the area's facilities beyond the store's 19.00 closing time.
In all of this there is a sense in which Radice is attempting to merely add to the Selfridges tradition. If Future Systems'plans for Birmingham were an eye-opener ('Can you remember any store openings in the last year?' he asks. 'Think about it.'), then the impact it might make is similar to the way the original Selfridges store transformed Oxford Street into a leading venue for shopping.
Gordon Selfridge, with money in his pocket thanks to a payout from his previous business partner in Chicago, pumped in a fortune.
'Think about the gesture he made there and the belief and the confidence he expressed, ' says Radice. 'It took strength, courage and risk. That's why we're alive now.'