Architects’ Design is Ship-Shape

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One of the most appealing things about becoming an architect is the opportunity to be truly creative in the design of a space. Whether designing a home, business, museum, hotel, or retail space, there are many ways that architects can go beyond the norm and create something that is truly unique and gets people talking.

An architecture firm designing a retail store in Shanghai did just that. They were given quite a bit of creative freedom, and took a very nautical approach for Ports 1961’s new flagship store (yes, puns intended). Archi-Tectonics, a New York based firm, designed the 2,800 square-foot space which is located in the Bund, Shanghai’s waterfront district.

The area has historically been a home for shipbuilding, so the architects working on the project started there. The store’s large size and high ceilings inspired the team to construct a space within the space that resembles the interior of a large ship. It combines the look of a ship’s hull with fabric hung in layers of the wall, which symbolizes the creation of the very fashions sold in the store.

The architectural team also had a chance to “think green” when working on their design by using reclaimed wood in the store that was taken from a house undergoing demolition. They re-milled the boards, roughened them, and then rubbed them with silver paint and oil. The finished product provided texture and luminosity to the space and tied together the concepts, materials, and design.

Rather than typical tables on which to display merchandise, the team decided to continue working with the nautical theme by designing built-in tables made of smooth, fiber-reinforced gypsum that look like islands coming up out of the floor. They also created the illusion that other aspects of the retail space were floating by hanging shelving units, mannequins, and clothing racks from the ceiling. They move at the hands of the customers, mimicking the swaying of a ship.

The final piece that tied the whole space together was the valuable find of a 600 year-old Chinese door made of wood and bronze that the team used for the exit door. The dark wood recalls colors and materials found in old trading ships, appropriate for a retail space where modern day trade (that of goods for money) still occurs.

The Ports 1961 design team had an ideal architectural opportunity in their design of the retail space, one that many architects would be thrilled to have. Their design is a shining example of what creativity can do to enhance a sometimes-mundane experience, shopping, into an event and an experience worth remembering.

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