Harrods - the creation of a legend
Mohamed had visited Harrods as a child and was struck by its grandeur and history. As he had done with the Ritz in Paris, he secretly vowed to one day own it, a dream that was realised. In 1985 when the Fayed brothers bought the majority stake of House of Fraser group, the parent company of Harrods.
Location: London, England
Date of building: parts date to 1890, the famous frontage dates from 1901
Timescale: ongoing from 1985
Harrods evolved from very humble beginnings and was transformed from a small corner shop founded in 1849 by Charles Henry Harrod, into the palatial store we know today. Over the years general wear and tear took its toll and by the time the Fayed brothers purchased it in 1985, Harrods exuberance was waning and its beautiful patina a shadow of its glorious past.
Ever since he was a boy, Mohamed had longed to own Harrods. Now it was his he had epic plans for its revival which would involve an ever-evolving and timeless makeover. Not only did he want to stay true to its heritage, he wanted his work at Harrods to astound and amaze.
External and Structural
London grime had tarnished the building’s terracotta frontage, which was also crumbling in parts and so specialists were appointed to clean, restore or replicate every detail of the patina. The dome was near collapse and was painstakingly repaired by expert conservators, and three staircases installed to meet with fire regulations, were intricately designed and lined with marble.
Boardings and fittings covering the store’s original features were removed to uncover the spectacular Edwardian Rococo ceilings, Art Nouveau mouldings and ceramic tiles, Art Deco marble pillars and bronze grilles. Old design drawings for ceiling and chandelier fixtures in rooms such as the Floral Hall were discovered and copied; piece by piece Mohamed put Harrods back together again, preserving, reinforcing and enhancing every aspect of the building.
Most notably, perhaps, were the additions of the Egyptian Room with its scaled-down Sphinx and Rosetta Stone replica, and the stunning Egyptian Escalator carved right through the centre of the store and depicts the story of the Valley of the Kings. Both are spectacular architectural feats.
Maintenance and repair of a building the size of Harrods is ongoing, but the investment Mohamed made – some £400 million – put it back on the map. Visitors flock to it, spending millions there every year – a significant boon for the British economy. His vision to revive its splendour, staying true to its heritage but bringing to it his own fantastical flair, has seen English Heritage list the Egyptian Escalator, the Egyptian Room and the Food Halls. Today it is one of the topmost tourist attractions in London. Harrods is Mohamed’s masterwork.