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The Department Store of the Future

Is the demise of the department store inevitable? Not if England's Selfridges has its way. The department store chain is opening a new outpost in Birmingham in September that is likely to stay around for for a long time — if only because it looks so incredibly futuristic. The building is a bubble-shaped sculpture, clad in 15,000 spun aluminum disks, designed by London-based architecture firm Future Systems.

Just as the Guggenheim Museum resurrected Bilbao, Spain, from urban decay, government officials are hoping that Selfridges will do the same for Birmingham, which has seen better days. The $60 million department is the centerpiece of a $750 million redevelopment of Bull Ring. That zone comprises 40 acres in downtown Birmingham, and the big metallic bubble (sometimes referred to as an armadillo or loaf of bread) is expected to draw visitors to shop in and around the department store.

Selfridges wants to draw a very specific shopper. James Bidwell, marketing director, says Selfridges imagines its Birmingham store as a place for cutting-edge individuals to gather and socialize, as well as to shop. If the architecture doesn't get their attention, then future store events might: They include appearances by shocking performance artist John Kamikaze, a nude photography shoot and a gathering of tatooists and acrobats.


a. A giant armadillo

b. Plus-size chain mail

c. A British department store

d. A white metal space egg

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