SND Chongqing WFC / Various associates
Photographs: URVIRSION CO
Text description provided by the architects. Various Associates have designed another new concept store for pioneering multi-brand fashion supplier SND. Promoter of a new concept of shopping, SND takes an independent road off the beaten track, rather than going with the flow. Its brick and mortar stores bring forward-thinking design that is not defined by common standards, showcase clothing artistically and breathe new life into the retail industry.
SND’s new premises are located in the World Financial Center, Chongqing’s most successful shopping mall. The city being built on mountains, it had been nicknamed “mountain city”. The complex transport system and hilly topography give this city a unique charm. The viaduct plays an indispensable role in the lives of the inhabitants, which not only stimulates economic development and facilitates connection between areas, but also improves the efficient use of vertical space. The existing site is a long, narrow two-storey space. Taking into account the characteristics of the terrain and the interesting way of life of Chongqing, the design team took “viaduct fashion” as the design concept, and used the spatial relationships formed by the suspension wire, order and layered layers to perform a unique “overpass fashion show” in Chongqing.
The overpass style suspension structural language is the basic design expression of the overall space
The original long, narrow space was not conducive to retail operations. To allow passers-by to have an overview of the store in the blink of an eye, the design team has chosen to directly free up the entire space, crossed by a straight and unblocked circulation path of 20 meters long. The way merchandise is displayed reveals a sense of openness and order, creating an experience of strolling under a long viaduct while providing people with a panoramic view of the store.
The spatial arrangement is simple, but the hanging panel posed a practical problem, since it has a length of more than 20 meters, weighing almost 10 tons. How to float the long, heavy display platform in the air and strike a subtle balance of strength and lightness was a key challenge but a breakthrough in basic structural design. The designers were inspired by the cable-stayed structure of the suspension bridge, which rests on a single structural column in the middle, with a long span cable supported and pulled obliquely in a triangular fashion. It’s another breakthrough, expressing a distinctive structural aesthetic.
The suspension cable is under tension
The suspension cable is pulled and fixed by anchors, and the stable triangle tells the beauty of the angles and the mechanics. The thin suspension cable does not block the sight lines from the outside to the inside, through which the service and reception desk and the rest area can be clearly seen. Thus, it ensures that wherever customers stay, they can quickly find sellers and ask for help.
The irregularly shaped seat placed at the sleeping area is like a natural stone on the road. The dressing room doors are finished in the same color with walls around, keeping a relatively low profile. The space behind the doors contrasts sharply with the exterior, giving guests the impression of walking into a hole under the bridge. The textures of the materials in dark and smooth hues soften the space and the reflection of the mirror generates a feeling of mystery. Complemented by lighting, the small, simplistic space fully expresses the freedom and art of design.
The handrails of the stairs are inspired by the railings of mountain roads. The combination of linear shape and stainless steel shows a natural and free posture. The original space inside the elevator is particularly cramped, only 1 meter wide. The designers used mirrored materials and light layering to visually enhance the spatial depth and add a fantastic touch to it.
The suspended panels combine aesthetics and functionality. Clothing is hung on stainless steel rails below the display panels at an equal distance. Illuminated by the lighting, the clothes oscillate slightly with the air flow, showing a dynamic rhythm.
The hanging panels are arranged in an orderly fashion, each group being installed with nearly 200 vertical plates. The top and bottom edges of each plate emit light, illuminating the space bidirectionally. Lighting defines the structures; structures support functions; and functions in turn complement light and structure. They complement each other just like the mechanical gears that work. The tailor-made, dyed the accessory display with wood grains naturally divides the traffic lanes. The suspended installation above combines the functions of lighting and mirror.
Based on the brand culture, spatial attribute and local geography, Various Associates extracted and combined different elements to create a whole new retail space. The point, line and plane of the space indicate the heart of the design concept, which runs through the entire space with unified logic. Spatial languages, emotions, and expressions are what Various Associates have always focused on in design practice. For this project, the team integrated the client’s brand philosophy, functionality, structures and art as a whole, and ultimately freed up space through simplistic and pure design languages.