By demolishing the existing exterior within a mall of unified facades, we pursued the concept of a raised mass; made tangible as a solid block of dark concrete. Poised on a corner site, the rectilinear carved form spans two stories in height, hovering uncannily within its boundaries; this playful moment of architectural tension is further emphasized by lighting the object from below. A scattered and restrained composition of deep vertical and horizontal punches provokes further curiosity in the viewer, presenting teasing glimpses of the movement within.
The mass is entered through, off center and purposeful incomplete, it collides with the existing structure of the neighboring building. The first hints of the interior spaces are suggested to the individual by the curved glass door intersecting the rectilinear mass, detailed in brass and curved green tile.
A simple dialogue of geometric play breaks down the carved interior volume into two connected spaces; the Library and the Reading Room. Upon entering the individual is welcomed into an expansive space of curated display and a vernacular material palette. A floor plane of reclaimed Chinese grey brick is sliced and twisted in a circular motion, reflecting the display hanging above.
Here a bespoke circular structure of Walnut shelving is suspended from the mass presenting the store with ample display space, a sense of layering and a lighting scheme which nods to the purposeful curation of a museum – penetrated by natural light from the deep façade punches. The central space cumulates in a solid statement table, where brick rises from the floor plane to meet a slab of solid white marble, below a deep conical light funnel bringing to mind the Oculus of the Pantheon.
Exploring deeper into the carved out interior, and passing through the library screen, one enters the Reading Room. Returning to a rectilinear format, this intimate space enshrouds product and individual in a wall of vertically placed, curved green tiles. The undulating material offers texture and depth to the walls inside the mass with a reflective glazed finish. Valextra’s most exclusive products are presented in this quiet space on a monolithic table of juxtaposed layers raising from the ground; reclaimed grey bricks, white porcelain tiles, green fabric and a deep layer of solid reclaimed wood; a final focal point of destination completing the conceptually driven retail space.
Photograph : Pedro Pegenaute
About the Architecture
Neri & HU
Mr. Neri received his Master of Architecture at Harvard University and his Bachelor of Architecture at UC Berkeley. Ms. Hu received her Master of Architecture and Urban Planning at Princeton University and her Bachelor of Arts in Architecture at UC Berkeley. Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu are the Founding Partners of Neri&Hu Design and Research Office, an inter-disciplinary international architectural design practice based in Shanghai, China, with an additional office in London, UK. Neri&Hu works internationally providing architecture, interior, master planning, graphic, and product design services. Currently working on projects in many countries, Neri&Hu is composed of multi-cultural staff who speak over 30 different languages. The diversity of the team reinforces a core vision for the practice: to respond to a global worldview incorporating overlapping design disciplines for a new paradigm in architecture. Neri&Hu are named Maison & Objet Asia Designers of The Year 2015 and Wallpaper* Designer of The Year 2014. In 2013, they were inducted into the U.S. Interior Design Hall of Fame. Their practice was the 2011 INSIDE Festival Overall Winner, won AR Awards for Emerging Architecture in 2010 by Architectural Review and one of the Design Vanguards in 2009 by Architectural Record. Other than architectural professionals, Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu have been actively involved in teaching and research. They have been invited to speak, exhibit and judge for many prestigious events and programs all over the world. Lyndon Neri and Rossana are also founders of Design Republic, a retail concept store based in Shanghai that offers a unique collection of products created by the world’s best design talents, Besides award-winning architecture and interiors, Neri&Hu have designed products for brands including including Classicon, Fritz Hansen, Gandia Blasco, JIA, LEMA, MOOOI, Nanimarquina, Parachilna, Poltrona Frau S.p.A., Porro, Stellar Works, Wallpaper* Handmade, Meritalia, BD Barcelona Design, neri&hu, among many others. In 2015, Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu were appointed Creative Directors of Stellar Works.