Bruce Nagel & Partners Architects

Urban Outfitters

New Haven, Connecticut

HBRA Architects - Thomas Beeby

  • Judith DiMaio (BN&PA-Design Partner) - Project Architect

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Updating “Old Broadway” in downtown New Haven was the brain child of Yale Properties, a part of Yale University. For some time Yale had wanted to give a face-lift to Broadway which cuts through the center of Yale University’s urban campus.  In 2001 Yale Properties hired the former dean of the School of Architecture, Thomas Beeby to produce a proposal for a stretch of Broadway that was deteriorating and ill-maintained. Beeby, in turn, invited former Yale faculty member, Judith DiMaio, to join the design team as design architect for a portion of the project.  Her project of choice was for the long anticipated Urban Outfitters store, a then fast growing chain store throughout America.  The ingenuity in the overall project resides in what appears to be 3 separate buildings, but is, in fact, a single building volume with 3 distinct facades.  DiMaio and Beeby’s intention was to diversify the character of the street, and to project a retail image where continuity in building height was maintained, while different design sensibilities could be introduced.  The two facades designed by Beeby are classical in style, and DiMaio’s, is characterized with a sleek steel and glass front. DiMaio was very pleased to be the architect for the Urban Outfitters store front as the Urban Outfitter image is contemporary and required large areas of glass for the display of their product. While the other 2 fronts were more harmonious with the overall character of this portion of Broadway, the Urban Outfitters and its ‘face to the street’ was appropriate to Yale Properties’  vision to enhance student life  with a store that advertised the ‘New’ and fast pace of the 21st century. Additionally it was conducive to DiMaio’s aesthetic and vision to counterpoint the other two storefronts with modern materials and signage.  The intention was, of course, to present a façade much like a bill-board for the display of clothing and Urban Outfitter paraphernalia. As might be expected, DiMaio’s front is excessively flat, (glass 3/8” from the steel frame) and gridded in such a way as to highlight the storefront as scaffold for the display of non-architectural material, i.e.  apparel. The designed frame is certainly Miesian in inspiration but the gridded surface is characteristically DiMaio, but with a ‘twist’.  Uncharacteristically and given the extreme flatness of the skin  she took the opportunity to design the storefront’s sign as a gigantic curved or concave surface clipped on to the glass wall and frame with cables. The inflection and pronounced curvature of the sign was the final touch to tie the retail frame together and energetically address the street and advertise the stores existence as one approached the store along the street. 

Eleven years later business is booming on Broadway, and Urban Outfitters remains a meeting point for both Yale students and the Community.

PUBLICATIONS:

Yale Alumni magazine, Light and Verity

Yale Daily News;  Tuesday January 8, 2001 and Tuesday January 30:   Professor DiMaio was  on the front page and a full page story through images in the body of the newspaper. The Daily News was highlighting the fact that DiMaio was using her building under construction as an education tool for the Undergraduate studios.  She was Director for the undergraduate Major.