Integrating design disciplines

Since 1900, DLR Group — a full-service architecture and engineering firm with 18 autonomous offices across the United States — has helped shape the face of American retail.

DLR's projects range from classical flagship department stores like the 1920s-era Bon Marche and Frederick & Nelson to the 1950s-era Northgate Mall, recognized as the “first suburban regional shopping center” by ULI's Shopping Center Development Handbook. Now, with a staff of 600 in 18 offices, DLR Group continues designing into the 21st century, hot on the heels of the international-award-winning Phase V-A expansion of Ala Moana Center.

“Our modern retail studio is building off of the success of Ala Moana,” says Steve McKay, retail principal. “The center's recent renovation was a singularly complex project focused on maximizing the value of an existing property, and I think heralds a new direction in overbuilding that retail developers will explore in this tightening retail environment.”

The most notable portion of Ala Moana Center's expansion was the addition of an entire third mall level, expanding the center from 1.5- to 1.8-million sq. ft. DLR Group's close coordination of all project disciplines with Ala Moana's owner and tenants allowed the entire center to remain open during construction.

“What really sets us apart in our field is our innovative integration of multiple design disciplines,” says McKay. Many DLR Group offices staff in-house mechanical, electrical, structural and civil engineers in addition to architects and designers: A full project team under one roof. “We're not just a bunch of designers working in a vacuum and hoping that the engineers can make our ideas happen. Even when we work with engineering subconsultants, our in-house professionals are readily available for consultation at any time. It's one of the factors that made Ala Moana such a success.”

On a smaller scale, DLR Group recently completed the revitalization of Mall 205 in Portland, Ore. The heart of the renovation design breaks down the “mall-esque” massing by turning internal-facing stores outward amidst a layering of variegated façade mass and level treatments.

The rejuvenated entry scheme, new glazing and detailing face approaching shoppers, projecting Mall 205's image as the thriving neighborhood center it has since become. “We believe in the power of design, and push it as far as possible. Mall 205 is a great example of what you can accomplish with even a limited budget,” says McKay.

For DLR Group, this year also saw the completion of the Duty Free Store (DFS) Galleria at the new Hollywood & Highland complex in the heart of Los Angeles. The Galleria's storefront runs along the famous Walk of Stars between Grauman's Chinese Theater and the red carpet entrance to the new Kodak Theater.

The store spans 44,000 sq. ft. on two floors and was designed to emulate the Hollywood lifestyle, from a fully-themed interactive tour of imagined studio stage sets on the lower level, to an elegant arte-moderne interpretation of the Hollywood high-life on the upper level. “DFS really tested the integrity of our design process, from initial image studies to the final details,” says McKay. “It was an amazing, imaginative job, and a lot of fun.”