Shop front. 1974. Designed by John Bruckland.
This List entry includes only the ground-floor shop front of No.14 Grafton Street.
Reasons for Designation
The shop front to Wartski is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Design interest: a high-quality and intact example of 1970s retail design;
* Rarity: it represents a distinctive but ephemeral genre of bespoke shop front design, of which few examples now survive.
Wartski, a firm specialising in fine goldsmith’s work and jewellery was established in Bangor, North Wales, by Morris Wartski, a Russian Jewish émigré, in 1865. The business moved to the fashionable seaside resort of Llandudno in 1907. Two years later Morris Wartski’s daughter Harriette married Emanuel Snowman, who opened a branch in London’s Regent Street in 1911. Until the 1920's Wartski specialised in gem-set jewellery and antique silver; however when Snowman visited Russia for the first time in 1925, he returned with fine works of art acquired form the Soviet government, which began to characterise the firm’s stock. During Snowman’s subsequent trips to Russia over the next five years he acquired C18 gold boxes, porcelain, jewellery including a tiara of aquamarines belonging to the Tsarina Alexandra, and a gold chalice commissioned by Catherine the Great. Amongst the important works of art by Carl Fabergé brought back from Russia were a dozen Imperial Easter eggs, including the Coronation Coach and the Winter Eggs. The firm moved to Grafton Street in 1974, and remains in family ownership. Its most recent high-profile commission was the wedding ring of the Duchess of Cambridge.
Wartski’s shop comes from a period of divergence in retail design. While chain stores were expanding and standardising their operations, certain independent ‘boutiques’, for example those of Carnaby Street, were adopting informal, eccentric designs which can be seen as a reaction against such uniformity. Luxury retailers were most likely to commission a bespoke design for their premises which conveyed the exclusive nature of their product or service. From c1930-65 architect-designed shop fronts had tended to be fully glazed, making the store interiors part of the window display, but in the 1960s a more assertive style emerged where maximum effect was derived from the qualities of material, blind stretches of walling or boxed-out elements, as in this instance. A precursor of Wartski’s was the extraordinary Grima jewellers shop front in Jermyn Street (1962), composed of rough-hewn slate slabs and steel with very small windows, which does not survive.
The architect John Frederick Bruckland graduated from the Northern Polytechnic in 1951, subsequently working in interior and exhibition design. Most notably he worked as a ‘collaborating architect’ for the well-known consultancy Design Research Unit in a series of exhibitions at the London Olympia c1957-61 and in the refitting of pubs for Watney Combe Reid. The Warstki commission may have come via Seifert, for whom the DRU had worked on a number of projects including the Wembley Conference Centre and the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington. A collector of C20 art, Bruckland with Ronald Sandiford designed a bicentenary exhibition for Christie’s in London in 1967. In 1977 he collaborated with the New York practice of Goldstone & Hinz on the interiors of a New York branch of Christie’s at the Delmonico Hotel, a 1928 skyscraper at 502 Park Avenue, New York.
Only the shop front and associated internal shutters are of special interest.
DESCRIPTION: the shop front is of six bays with a recessed entrance lobby in the penultimate bay to the left. The frame is of patinated bronze set within black polished granite pilasters. The lower part comprises five display windows. The overhanging upper section consists of bronze panels with a striated finish, each with a rectangular window. The stallriser is clad in horizontal white marble slabs. Black granite steps lead up to the entrance. Above the entrance is a box sign with a gold finish, bearing the royal coat of arms and the name WARTSKI. In the end bay to the right is a deep projecting box sign with the number 14 and WARTSKI OF LLANDUDNO on each side. Plate-glass door with central bronze panel. Internally, the display window is enclosed with flush timber shutters.