Architecture meets retail in Shanghai

01 Apr 2014

First look at the RIBA’s Shanghai Xintiandi Windows Project 2014

Following on the success of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the British Council’s 2012 arts projects on Regent Street, which paired architects and retailers to create innovative shop windows, the RIBA Windows Project at Shanghai Xintiandi will take to the streets of Shanghai this year from 28 March to 4 May. 

This year’s exhibition will be larger than before and as in past years it will pair professional teams of architects with innovative retailers. This year’s partnerships are: Ziggy Chen and Delvendahl Martin Architects; Exception and NEX; EIN and Haptic; Davidson Tsui and Mamou-Mani & Arup Associates; Pelle Moda and Marjus Jatsch Partners & Ballistic Architecture Machine; Tayohya and naganJohnson; Moleskin and Carl Turner Architects; PH7 and Gundry & Ducker; Sushibar Ichininmae and LEAD; and Rubis Spa and Divercity. These architects will be joined by UNStudio, which has been tapped to create a large scale outdoor public arts installation dubbed ‘Mirror Lane’ that explores the role of display in Shaghai and will serve as a gateway to the installations.

In collaboration with ZIGGY CHEN, Delvendahl Martin Architects has created a giant fabric lantern for the fashion designer’s flagship store at Xintiandi. Inspired by traditional Chinese lanterns and shadow puppet theatre, the installation displays projections that blend patterns at different scales, ranging from fabrics to historical maps of the city, and plays with visual perceptions of personal and collective space.

Pairing with fashion brand EXCEPTION, London-based NEX Architecture’s installation - dubbed Whisper - features three organic clouds that animate the shop windows and interior. As visitors approach the store, they will hear low-level sounds emitted from each of the cones. Each cloud expresses a different range of sounds representing Nature, Craftsmanship and City, the three main elements that make up EXCEPTION’s brand identity.

The EIN brand and ethos of 'Elegance in Nature' is represented through a landscape and cloudscape designed by the London- and Oslo-based architectural studio Haptic. It evokes the mountainous nature of the Nordic lands and dramatic skies. The cloud is made from hanging sheets and the landscape is made of timber that seemingly grows out of the shop floor and is populated with mannequins dressed in matching fabrics that take inspiration from Nordic fairy tales and forest characters.

The installation for DAVIDSON TSUI, a high-end garment brand, is designed by Mamou-Mani and Arup Associates. They have created a giant origami piece that activates the store facade. Customers and passers-by will be able to interact with the installation by posing in the window ‘wearing’ an oversized architectural ‘hat’ and ‘dress’ that animates the windows and the facade of the shop.

Women’s shoe brand, Pelle Moda’s installation is based on the fairy tale 'The Empress’ New Shoes', which describes the life-changing power of specially handcrafted shoes. Designed by Markus Jatsch Partners & Ballistic Architecture Machine, the design features two main elements: a two layered translucent curtain around the entire store and a coloured light wall towards the mall entrance lobby, and five diorama sciences from The Empress’ New Shoes.

Practical household objects retailer TAYOHYA has paired with naganJohnson architects based in London. The colourful and flower-filled installation denotes the arrival of Spring. Made of real trees with candy-coloured branches interspersed with faux buttercup flowers, the installation spills out into the mall’s atrium greeting visitors arriving by escalator.

Moleskin notebooks have paired with Carl Turner architects. Taking inspiration from international travel and the iconic Moleskin notebooks, the installation features shop windows that depict a busy metropolis replete with skyscrapers drawn from various locales.

Gundry & Ducker architects take Chinese traditional culture as the point of departure for the installation it designed for jewelry brand, PH7. Called 'Jewelled Landscape' the installation features a layered perspective, influenced by Chinese landscape painting, that encompasses lotus flowers that showcase and draw attention to the retailer’s silver jewelry range.

Japanese cuisine restaurant Ichininmae Sushi will have its sushi bar designed by Laboratory for Explorative Architecture and Design (LEAD). LEAD’s dynamic installation, 'Breathing', located at the entrance to Sushibar Ichininmae, is a sculptural piece that references the restaurant’s products with its lifelike marine form, appearance and behaviour. A curling spine surfaces from the atrium floor, supporting a flexible, slowly breathing skin from colourful, iridescent scales that capture light, reflections and gazes from passers-by.

Last but not least, Swiss luxury spa RubisSpa and Divercity architects of London and Athens have created a volumetric installation that evokes a mountain passage. Fibre optics and long delicate chains of varying lengths are suspended from the ceiling to create a sensual and interactive mass in the form of a Swiss snow mountain. 

Along with these installations, the recently prized British architectures of 2013 RIBA Awards will be exhibited in Xintiandi Style together with creative salons that will be held throughout the event. 

Sharon McHugh
US Correspondent

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