There is a misconception among many designers that the top floor of a department store may as well be Siberia. Retailers tend to banish offices up there, far from quick-selling items like cosmetics and handbags on lower floors. After more than a decade designing upper-level hospitality and retail spaces like the OXO Tower Restaurant for Harvey Nichols in London and a dining/food hall emporium for Milan’s La Rinascente, architecture firm Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands (LDS) sees opportunity in the heights. “Most architects don’t understand that the retailer constantly changes what happens on the floor,” says Paul Sandilands, a director at the London-based firm. “In most of the great buildings in the world, the ceilings are the most spectacular.”

LDS put this experience to work for the Tsvetnoy Central Market, a lush food hall on the top two floors of a new department store in Moscow (designed by Russian firm Project Meganom). The designers applied a shimmering expanse of 2,600 mirrored and hammered stainless steel panels in a geometric pattern on the fifth- and sixth-floor ceilings. The textured surface creates a distorted reflection of shoppers and rainbow-colored food displays that can be seen from the ground floor entrance, enticing visitors to travel up.

To achieve the effect they wanted, the LDS team specified a light-colored floor and configured cracks between the ceiling panels to express the building's structural grid, which adds clarity to the organization of the space. 'You can end up with reflections of reflections of reflections,' says Sandilands. Lights mounted on columns fill the gaps between the panels with a warm glow. Ceiling cutouts also have pairs of metal-halide lamps, chosen for their crisp light. 'We did a lot of 3-D computer modeling to make sure it all worked, but there is a degree of chance here, and as it turned out, it all looks pretty spectacular,' says Sandilands.