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Loewe Circular Lift

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After opening, the Loewe store had compliments on its lift and staircase, with a journalist from Financial Times dubbing it reminiscent of Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.

Careful redesign showcases bespoke panoramic lift.

by Lee Dean

When Loewe, the LVMH-owned luxury fashion house, planned a new flagship store on New Bond Street in London, developer Loewe Hermanos (UK) Ltd. and architect Loewe Architecture Dept. wanted to make a statement. Taking over the grade-II-listed building at 41-42 New Bond Street (which had been a flagship store for British luxury retailer Mulberry and American accessories brand Coach), they decided to add and spotlight a high-end circular panoramic lift.

Loewe’s creative director Jonathan Anderson redesigned the store. In its middle, plans called for a spiral staircase and 10 mT of Campaspero stone suspended around a cylindrical, direct-acting hydraulic lift with brass detailing. Loewe appointed chartered surveyor Mitchell Price to oversee the extensive, yearlong renovations. Following discussions with Loewe’s architect, it became clear that the provision of the lift and spiral staircase would require the expertise of specialists in the mechanical-handling industry. It was at this stage that Mitchell Price brought in independent lift engineering consultants LECS (UK) Ltd. Other firms used were planning consultant Simply Planning, services consultant E+M Tecnica, structural engineer Milk Structures and main contractor T&B Contractors Ltd.

Design and Manufacture

Your author, associate director at LECS (UK), created an exact specification document that informed the tender document. This ensured that the successful supplier had the expertise to deliver the finished product to the high standard required.

As well as listing all the key design requirements, the tender documentation specified that potential suppliers must ensure that all health and safety and building regulations were met. For example, to ensure accessibility, the car required a minimum floor area with at least a 1,500-mm diameter to provide adequate turning space for wheelchair access. A direct-acting hydraulic single-stage ram was chosen and submerged below the pit inside a 20-m-deep borehole. A single hydraulic piston, central to the cylindrical lift, drives the car up and down.

To complement the renovations of the building, the lift includes modern, highly stylized frameless glazed doors, which operate from under the car to conceal most of the lift’s mechanical components. Lubrication-free guide shoes were used to avoid the need for oils in the shaft. This helps reduce the buildup of dust and dirt in the long term, contributing to reduced maintenance costs.

Following the tender process, LECS (UK) appointed Specialist Lift Services to design, supply and install the bespoke lift. The car was being built at a factory in Milan, Italy, while the refurbishments were underway. Built in one piece, it has a 20-mm-thick Campaspero stone floor on an 18-mm-thick plywood base. The car entrance specification included an automatic,
two-panel, center-opening door arrangement with glass doors featuring brass-colored aluminum.

User controls were designed in coordination with the architect, and the car operating panel was engraved discretely to achieve a clean look. The lift’s door safety light curtains are installed in the floor and header — a unique design adopted due to the curvature of the doors. A factory site visit by your author helped identify minor issues that were resolved before the lift was shipped to the U.K.

Specifications called for a maximum lifting capacity of 900 kg with a minimum design life of 20 years. The lift also had to allow for a projected increase in traffic. The New Bond Street alone has seen investments of more than GBP60 million (US$69.19 million) and has a daily footfall expected to rise by an estimated 75,000 following the opening of the often-delayed Crossrail (cross-London rail link). According to a November 2019 report by The Guardian, Transport for London said Crossrail will open “as soon as practically possible in 2021.”

To avoid possible color discrepancies in different batches of colored stainless steel, all required stainless steel was bought in one batch. This helped ensure consistency of color throughout the structure, car and entrances. These materials were distributed to various contractors and third-party suppliers that worked on different aspects of the lift construction.

Installation

Though New Bond Street was temporarily closed for the lift’s installation, timeframes were tight, and contractors worked around the clock to complete installation and commission in time for the store’s opening date. Due to concerns regarding London’s underground network, ground surveys were required first. Once the surveys were completed, work on digging the 20-m-deep borehole required for the lift shaft and mechanics that would allow the car to travel between three floors of the store began. These excavations had to navigate the antiquated sewage system below, along with a volume of other engineering works for the new Elizabeth London Underground line taking place nearby.

The tender document required the lift to go through a thorough testing process to ensure compliance with relevant safety standards and regulations, both before and after installation. These went well, and the Loewe store opened to public fanfare on April 27, 2019.

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Associate director at LECS (UK) Ltd., an engineering consultancy specializing in lifts, escalators, cable cars and most forms of mechanical transit equipment. He joined the company in 2015 and holds an NVQ3 in lift installation. Dean joined the lift industry in 2005, beginning training as an apprentice engineer. After completing his apprenticeship in 2008, he spent five years installing and refurbishing lift installations at various locations around the U.K. In 2013, he was promoted to project manager, managing many high-profile projects.

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