Selfridges is always a somewhat magical experience for any visitor, but with the spotlight firmly shining on store at the moment, (kudos to Mr Selfridge on ITV), a Silent Room is the last thing you expect to stumble upon in the store. The concept, designed by Alex Cochrane Architects was very intriguing, so I decided to go and experience it for myself. I found that the effect of the installation was wonderful, probably exactly as the eponymous Harry Selfridge had expected when he installed the original version in 1909, as a place for ‘busy shoppers to retire from the whirl of bargains and the build up of energy.”
The experience on the whole was very surreal and amusing, you are asked to remove your shoes and leave anything of distraction in the lockers provided. You are then left to wonder down a dark corridor that is lit by free hanging light-bulbs around to the entrance of the room. When I entered the Silent Room I couldn’t help but stifle a giggle at the sight of a suited businessman who was asleep spread eagle in the far right corner of the room. What struck me is that it doesn’t matter who you are when you are in there, all prejudices subside as at the end of the day the people who come in are essentially seeking an escape from the outside, leaving their troubles and distraction stowed away in a locker, and as you can’t speak you can do what the hell you want!
The layout of the room is extremely minimal, there are soundproofed beige walls with dim lighting along the bottom of the room, with seating surrounding the edges of the room. The only qualm I had was that there is no ceiling on the soundproofed structure, so I could hear the staff at the door talking about their future job aspirations for the most part, which was somewhat irritating. Something that I found surprisingly soothing was the intermittent rumble of the underground beneath us every few minutes (as the room is on the lower ground floor). It was quite the subtle reminder that you are there to get some headspace from the bustling outside world.
I will admit, I had maybe a 10 minute snooze whilst I was in there, as I had just come from an interview (I have a new job! Will post about it in due course..) and had had an anxious morning. What I didn’t expect to see when I opened my eyes was a Tibetan Monk lookalike – think of a chinese man wearing just a white robe – praying very extravagantly opposite me, headstands and all!
I left the room after around 10 minutes and felt completely clear headed. Maybe it is merely a psychological experience, the concept is so simple, but it strangely works. When you re-enter the electricity of Selfridges you feel a sense of detachment from any previous stress, and it is something that I would definitely recommend to any defeated or curious shopper while it is open. This also relates to my long standing vision that someone should come up with a Nap Shop in London, but that can be saved for another day too!
No noise have also created the innovative Quiet Shop as part of the No Noise initiative which is very fun. The shop has de-branded many well know products such as Beats By Dr. Dre, Jil Sander dresses, Heinz bottles, Marmite and Vaseline pots, in an attempt to diffuse any stigma’s attached to brands. They also have de-branded the classic Selfridges yellow bag, but who wants that?
Selfridges I will always love you.