St James Quarter, Edinburgh
Brief: Wayfinding strategy and concept design
St James Quarter, Edinburgh is a significant retail and residential development located to the east of the historic Princes St – Edinburgh’s main shopping thoroughfare. Designed by Alan Murray Architects, St James Quarter includes 850k sq ft of retail space; 1600 + car parking spaces; over 150 private apartments; an aparthotel and the first upmarket luxury W Hotel in Scotland. The hotel with its signature ribbon architecture sits at the heart – providing a new landmark for the city.
The client was looking for an intuitive design concept that would support their aim for St James’ Quarter to be an integral part of the city. In response, geographical references to the external environment are used as a device to aid visitor orientation and route planning. We also worked closely with the architects and wider design team to explore opportunities for incorporating intuitive wayfinding cues within the overall design.
Challenge and Response
The Galleria has three main entrances and extends across five floors above ground, with three levels of basement parking. Floors 1 to 3 are the primary retail levels; with 4 and 5 providing access (respectively) to the cinema and an external terrace. As a series of stacked crescent shaped malls, the Galleria is relatively easy to navigate, but several wayfinding challenges were identified. The lift cores are located off the main concourse, so not visible in views down the mall and vary in the floors they serve. There were also concerns that the size of the car park floorplates would make it difficult for visitors to easily relocate their cars.H
To address these challenges a zoned strategy was implemented. Centred around the three main vertical circulation points, each zone was allocated a unique colour from the brand palette. The colour was incorporated into the wayfinding signs, lift lobbies and escalator lighting. With the colour radiating out from the lift lobbies in the car park and up through each floor level, as a vertical stack threading through the building.
An innovative illuminated, ribbonlike structure runs down the length of the underside of each escalator, providing a conceptual link to the signature architecture of the hotel. Perforations in the material allow the colour of the light to shine through creating a column of colour that is clearly visible in views through the mall.
Large, static digital screen totems and index signs, sited at entrances and vertical circulation points welcome visitors and communicate the offer. These screens display the retail directory and mall map, interspersed with centre messaging.
Reinforcing the connection with the wider city, the name of each entrance and associated lift core reflects the immediate geography – Picardy Place; Princes St and Multrees (the luxury brand shopping centre that adjoins the Galleria). Decorative graphics within the lift lobbies, communicate the nature of these external offers. As well as providing orientation cues, this helps promote other attractions within the city to encourage further exploration.