The First International  Nordstrom Store | Calgary

Exploring Retail Architecture, Metaphor and Magic.

I had a chance to observe the strategic evolutions of Nordstrom’s brand presence in my friendship with Dawn A. Clark, AIA LeedAP — lead architectural strategist and team leader in the newly evolving architectural and store design expressions of Nordstrom — most recently unveiled and launched last week in Calgary, Alberta —
the first international store of
the New Nordstrom.

Any store is a story — it’s about hundreds of people driving, as a collective team, to a strategic direction — and the tactical outcomes in selling experiences, products, relationships and holistic services.

To get there, a direction needs to be defined, and it was Dawn’s visioning, along with the Nordstrom family, her teams of designers, as well as their long-running architectural retail design consultant, Callison — to look towards a layered string of metaphors to build out a dimensional experience of Nordstrom service. A customer’s impressions will always be about the detailing of sentience in procession — the “process” of accessing the street views, building skins, doorways, entry points, multiple floor access and departmental areas. While we had no involvement, in particular, with this store, GIRVIN designed the environmental graphics theory, interior signing systems, a specialized identity and alphabet for the Nordstrom family several decades in play.

Core to Dawn’s poetical design thinking is
a dynamic reaching out to bigger allegorical plays,
in place-making.
In my conversations with her about the notion of layering experience, she has foreseen the strategy of the New Nordstrom has one of a kind of stratigraphical expression, that finds its storytelling, like the journey into a canyon of stone stratum — the measurement of time, use, and materiality in a rich sequencing of retail presence. Looking at the stone patterning of the skin of the store underlines that opening premise — a strata strategy of variegated stone panels that stagger and tier in their arrangement in a manner that suggests a stamped compression that too speaks to a lightness and sliding airiness that strikingly energizes and modernizes the spirit of the shopfront.

The First International  Nordstrom Store | Calgary

The logo letterspaces its telling across these sedimentary markers, an earthen-like cleavage of stone, the stratigraphical beginning of a journey within.
At entry level, a glass chamber is fretted with a ruled patterning that extends the brand rhythm of layered dimensionality

The First International  Nordstrom Store | Calgary

The First International  Nordstrom Store | Calgary

The First International  Nordstrom Store | Calgary

The First International  Nordstrom Store | Calgary

That story finds a continuation in a vast interior well — also canyon-like — a vaulted chamber that uses light and materials to layer a luminous chamber from the exterior ceiling opened sunlight, down through the floors to the first floor foundation of the entry journey of Nordstrom customers.

The First International  Nordstrom Store | Calgary

The First International  Nordstrom Store | Calgary

There are other metaphors, of trees, of clouds — a stand of trees acts as a kind of merchandising storytelling. They reach out to a set of ceiling lowering and floating clouds — large scale panels that act as gestures of closeness and containment of customers.

See below, these statements of retail retelling.

The trees.
The First International  Nordstrom Store | Calgary

The Clouds.
The First International  Nordstrom Store | Calgary

There are already a number of overviews on
the first New International Nordstrom.
Explore local and international coverage as you will.

There are, too, studies and retellings of launch procedures of a store, and story, opening to a community — how does it happen?

People empower launches —
presence is authenticating, vitalizing and enchanting.
And the Nordstrom family sees itself as the foundational base of a pyramidal geometry of greatness — they support the staff. To the strata strategy of Dawn Clark’s retail architectural metaphor, the Nordstrom family are the core on which everything is built — the earthen requisite of an ever-growing and ever-greening garden.

Dawn Clark and Pete Nordstrom,
with Tom Ackerman

The First International  Nordstrom Store | Calgary

Dawn Clark with Jim Pattison
and Blake Nordstrom

The First International  Nordstrom Store | Calgary

For the Nordstrom clan, it is one of engagement — personal reaches and connections
with people, actively answering questions.
And here, Nordstrom family members talk to team members, to guests, to customers —
which in a manner of thinking, might all be in the same threading of care.

The First International  Nordstrom Store | Calgary

Calgary Store Manager Sheila Wooldridge, Bruce Nordstrom and Dawn Clark
The First International  Nordstrom Store | Calgary

What is engagement, for a retailer?

Erik Nordstrom, answering questions about shopping bags and where to get them.
The First International  Nordstrom Store | Calgary

Engagement is about touch [and, in the original etymology, the grasp of a contract — or “gage,” an object of value] — with the sentience of watchfulness. And watchfulness = feelingness.
“You watch your customer and look for points of relevance” — like:
the right question
at the right moment.





What comes through, in the mysticism and strategy of building retail storytelling experiences, a magically emotive art in architecture, Dawn and her teams have orchestrated a marvelously responsive sphere of thoughtful sensation —
innovated in
the context of poetic place, allegory and metaphor.

And in the beginning, and in the end, it’s about what you feel, and as well in psychical emotionality
what remains unforgettable.
Memory holds.
And Nordstrom:

Tim | GIRVIN Calgary, Alberta