Through the Shop Window

Images of British Shops and Shopping from the RIBA Collections

In the spring of 2015, the Through the Shop Window exhibition featured at Shanghai Fashion Week as fashion and architecture met again, when RIBA architects took over the retail windows in Shanghai’s most famous shopping plaza, Xintiandi Style, and showcased their talents as part of the RIBA Shanghai Windows Project 2015.

Shopping, regarded by many as the nation’s favourite pastime is driven by our desire for ever new, constantly changing fashions and goods. In turn the demands of our shopping habits has led to the rapidly, ever changing architecture and design of shops. By their very nature shop designs and displays tend to be very ephemeral, quickly consigned to history and only recorded for posterity by the photographer’s camera or the architect’s pen.

Through the Shop Window captures the evolution of British shopping trends in the middle of the twentieth century beginning with the stylish glamour of Art Deco, its glitz and chrome a luxurious antidote to the harsh times of the Depression. After the Second World War’s austerity came Modernism, far simpler, yet often extremely elegant with large picture windows rendering the shop fronts almost transparent, their interiors revealed to all. Witness how many of the photographs displayed here were photographed at night emphasizing their theatricality and tempting you to enter. Then finally the vitality of the “Swinging Sixties” with that coolest destination of all, London’s Carnaby Street.

39 items
Black & White Milk Bar, Gray's Inn Road, London, at nightRIBA2561-10

A mural on the corner of Ganton Street and Carnaby Street, LondonRIBA17831

Advertising hoardings, corner of Shaftesbury Avenue and Piccadilly Circus, LondonRIBA88799

Austin Reed Ltd., 103-113 Regent Street, London: the red lacquer roomRIBA11626

Austin Reed, 103-113 Regent Street, London: the barber's saloonRIBA11628

Badges on sale in Carnaby Street, LondonRIBA17833

Bally Shoe Company shop, 30 Old Bond Street, London, by nightRIBA24934

Bally Shoe Shop, Regent Street, London: window displayRIBA11102

Carnaby Street, LondonRIBA15336

Carnaby Street, LondonRIBA15337

Cresta Silks dress shop, Brompton Road, LondonRIBA19015

Design for a shoe shop on the corner of Edgware Road and Harrowby Street, LondonRIBA20627

Design for a temporary shop window display to promote the Festival of Britain, for the Travel AssociationRIBA29362

Design for the entrance area of the 'Jenefer' fashion shop, Poultry, London: a shop assistant and customer are shown at the counter and clothing can be seen displayed on mannequins in the backgroundRIBA31202

Design for the knitwear deparment of the 'Jenefer' fashion shop, Poultry, London: the scheme includes counters, display cabinets, fittings and fixtures featuring brightly coloured panelsRIBA31201

Electrical shopRIBA15368

Electricity Showrooms, Cannon Street, City of LondonRIBA17079

Freeman Hardy & Willis shoe shop, Catford, London: the shop entrance at nightRIBA74775

Gay Kaye Ltd handbag shop, 4 New Bond Street, LondonRIBA25386

Habitat crockery and household waresRIBA4982

Habitat shop at night, Fulham Road, LondonRIBA2655-15

Hairdresser's shop window displaying wigs, toupees and hairpieces, LondonRIBA33815

Jaeger shop, Brompton Road, Chelsea, London: close-up of the shop windows framed in Portland stone mouldingsRIBA24930

Jaeger shop, Manchester: wool departmentRIBA11098

Jaeger shop, Victoria Street, London, by nightRIBA8587

James Lock & Company, 6 St James's Street, LondonRIBA25388

John Lewis temporary shop, Oxford Street, London: the Holles Street cornerRIBA25429

Keddies Department Store, Southend-on-Sea, Essex: escalator to first floorRIBA25415

Leisure Kitchen Equipment, Regent Street, LondonRIBA25438

Max Factor salon and make-up studio, 28 Old Bond Street, London: window displayRIBA7755

Old England showroom, Regent Street, London, by nightRIBA25389

Pram parked outside a supermarketRIBA15369

Relaxing by the summerhouse on the roof garden of Derry and Toms department store, Kensington High Street, LondonRIBA55248

Russell & Bromley shoe shop, Ealing, London, by nightRIBA17160

Selecting fabrics at Heal's, Tottenham Court Road, LondonRIBA34939

Selecting fabrics at Heal's, Tottenham Court Road, LondonRIBA14536

The Norbury Hotel off licence and delicatessen, London Road, Norbury, LondonRIBA17201

Wayang Coffee Lounge, 207 Earl's Court Road, London, by nightRIBA3354-53

Window display for Accessories, Regent Street, London: the Students Display Competion entry by students of Guildford School of ArtRIBA25434