April 2018

Ikea Southampton

Following refurbishment, the IKEA Southampton multi-storey car park is looking better than ever thanks to a new external screening solution from Levolux.

IKEA’s Southampton store, which opened in 2009 and attracts 2 million visitors each year, is attached to a 900-space multi-storey car park. As one of IKEA’s few town-centre stores, it was designed by Black Architecture to fit within a relatively confined plot.

Located to the south of the store is a five-storey car park, with two prominent, circular ramps providing access to vehicles entering and exiting the site. To soften the visual impact of the ramp structures, a screening system was applied, in the form of vertical timber fins.

The original screening solution, which was installed by a façade specialist in 2009 ahead of the store’s opening, comprised a series of horizontal rows containing 300mm wide, vertical timber fins. The timber fins create an effective, curved screen that encloses the two car park ramp structures.

In total, 936 individual timber fins were incorporated into the structure, using untreated western red cedar. Timber fins like these would normally withstand the salty coastal conditions experienced at the site. However, the choice of fixing method for the original installation has, over time, proved to be inadequate.

Almost eight years after the original installation, Levolux was invited to carry out a site survey and propose remedial works to reinstate the screening solution. After inspecting the structure, it was clear that all timber fins would need to be replaced. All works would also need to be carried out while the IKEA store remained open for business.

One option presented by Levolux was to replace the timber fins with new timber fins, secured with an improved fixing method. Although this option was seriously considered, a second option presented by Levolux was preferred. This option involved replacing the timber fins with aluminium ‘timber-effect’ fins.

A few eye-brows were raised at this prospect, but once physical samples were passed around, it was clear that the ‘faux-wood’ finish offered by Levolux was very compelling.

The special ‘timber-effect’ finish so closely matched the appearance and texture of real wood, that it was surprisingly difficult to tell them apart.

Thanks to advances in powder coating techniques, Levolux can offer aluminium solutions with a finish that accurately mimics the colour and texture of timber, terracotta, coreten or even concrete.

Levolux was given the go-ahead to refurbish the steel support structure in addition to swapping out the timber fins for an aluminium equivalent. The fin ends were finished with profile cut, aluminium end-caps, which close the fins and allow them to be attached to custom ‘L’-shaped brackets. The benefits of this arrangement proved to be considerable.

While it is generally accepted that timber fins will naturally weather and change colour over time, from light brown to a silvery-grey, this is seen by some to be a diminishing quality. The variation in colour of real timber is also accentuated if it receives different levels of exposure to sunlight or water. A blotchy or streaky appearance is often evident on curved façades, or where a portion of a timber façade is sheltered from rain or shaded by trees or adjacent buildings.

For this project, the guarantee that the aluminium fins would retain their ‘wood-effect’ appearance for many years without diminishing, proved to be a significant benefit. A second important benefit was the cost-saving achieved by using extruded aluminium instead of a high-grade timber alternative.

The rejuvenated screening solution, which extends more than 80 metres in length and almost 16 metres in height, restores the original quality of the overall scheme, as first imagined by Black Architecture back in 2009.

The newly refurbished multi-storey car park at the IKEA store in Southampton, provides a welcome boost, not only to IKEA, or its customers, but also to the wider local community. Thanks to the new aluminium ‘wood-effect’ fins from Levolux, which are virtually maintenance free, the structure can be described in true ‘IKEA speak’, as being ‘wonderful, everyday’.