Can passageways be more than a space for circulation?
In the Chinese architects’ findings on how to redefine passageways into functional spaces, X+Living brings forth a new definition. Responding to the client’s need to embed the passageway connecting the Deji Art Museum to the plaza into the loop of an artistic journey, the architects have created a retail space that presents itself as a miniature open gallery. On the eighth floor of the Deji Plaza Phase II in Nanjing, China, the B.C. Glacial Water’s new retail store shapeshifts between a retail space and an artistic journey. “Breaking away from tradition, art and commerce have intermingled to form a creative commercial space that pulls in emotions and imagination,” share the designers in an official release.
Incorporating functional spaces such as retail, lounge and warehouse into the 430 sqm of the semi-open gallery layout, the retail design redefines the potential of a passageway. While the initial wall restricted the flexibility for usable space, the designers created a curved wall around it. This provided a wider niche for creative spaces and formed a warehouse space in between, solving the problem of insufficient space for the retail area. Bridging functionality and creative expression, the space turns retail activity into an artistic experience. Creating moments of highlight for ordinary things, the designers share, “Imagine the landscape in paints becomes a reality, an art gallery in forest emerges.”
With the aim to create “an atmosphere of timelessness”, the retail store design adorns the epiphanic beauty of white. Inspired by the buttonwood trees, found everywhere in Nanjing, the structural columns draw a resemblance to the trunks of the tree. While the repetitive pattern of white columns imparts the sense of walking amid a mystic forest of buttonwood trees, beyond the human eye level these columns transform into artistic expressions. Either end of the column becomes separate entities denoting varying concepts. The lower end of the buttonwood trunk-like columns spreads out to form long seating areas and bar counters encompassing the column like a floating cloud. Like a splash of water on a lake, the upper end blends into the white ceiling in a gentle curve. Within their attempts of creating an experiential retail space, the designers mention the interior design aims to depict the space as a verse from a Chinese poem – “In my sleep, I heard the autumn breeze outside, but when I woke up, I couldn’t find anything but buttonwood leaves falling all over the steps, bathed in the bright moonlight.”
While making functional art on the canvas of neatly staggered white columns, the designers present a colour palette that is in gradient. Introduced on the white walls are circular niches for the storage of colourful pick-up containers. Arranged as puzzles piecing together, this display with curved glass covering reminds one of oversized bubble wraps neatly placed on a wall. The exaggeration in the artistic display with the shapes, colour and gradation adds to the impressionist quotient of the space that the designers tried to indulge in. “The colours are divided and then woven into the painting with separate brushstrokes. Stepping back a few yards, the gradient colours suddenly fall into the right place, condensing into a shimmering and vibrant flower, the impression of the painting refracting through the hazy texture with the light,” shares X-Living. Furthermore, the higher grids of the display are used as concealed air return outlets.
Adding more colour to the white space are the macaroon chairs that can be easily moved around. Within the built-in furniture of the space that flows between the floor and trunk columns, the macaroon chairs are the only movable furniture. Curated to reflect the concept of “stepping into a forest of snowy buttonwood trees”, the furniture design has also been customised by X+Living. Balancing the colour-swoon wall displays are doorway sculptures of Athena and the Thinker hanging on the wall at the entrance to the washroom. Placing them in an organic alcove on the wall with light shaping its silhouette adds more drama to the white aesthetics. Abiding by the narrative of the entire space, the washrooms also follow themes and respective colours that ebb and flow on different surfaces.
Creating the whole space to act as a single physical entity, corners are mostly invisible with all edges being curved. Adopting the curve and organic design to the minutest details, the Shanghai-based firm presents an intriguing relation between the floor, wall and ceiling. Stating their intent to create a soft visual sensation that nourishes the consumer’s sense of tranquility and relaxation, the designers share, “It is in the most ordinary moments of life that art sprouts, lying dormant beneath the surface of our daily consciousness. A special colour painting on the gallery wall and the light and air in the space create a light mood, deepening our feelings towards the world.” Delivering on the clients need for an artistic journey, they further add, “By exploring the extraordinary in the ordinary and revealing the hidden romance of life, the space invites people to stop, rest, observe and feel.” In trying to bring out the beauty in the mundane, design becomes a tool here and art becomes a tool for design. In the coming together of art and design, can retail space move beyond the monotonous deliverables of consumerism and closer to creative experiences?
Name: B.C. Glacial Water New Retail Store
Location: Nanjing, China
Area: 430 sq m
Client: Deji Group
Chief Designer: Li Xiang
Technical Director: Wu Feng
Project Director: Luo Ziyan
Design Team: Zhao Dandan, Jiang Xueping, Li Baojun, Zhao Yuwen
Production Director: Zheng Minping