This 2,300-square-foot (213-square-meter) interior was designed and built in 2010 as a flagship store for a reputed independent fashion retailer (Inhabit) along Singapore’s Orchard Road. The design resolves the problems of an extremely low ceiling height (2.6 meters) and limited storefront visibility due to the unit’s corner location. As an introverted container wrapped in opaque herringbone-patterned oak, the design inverts normative expectations of large glass window displays. The oak appears consistently on both horizontal and vertical surfaces, extending the reach of what is traditionally a floor pattern.
A large white unadorned ceiling canopy, faceted in section, is set tight to the existing plenum level while forming three suspended dressing rooms below. Positioned around a central space, the dressing rooms create an interior living room, perfect for the performance of chatting, comparison, and gossip—the often neglected performances played out in the act of shopping. Floating off the floor, each dressing room is partially covered with large mirrors, providing and amplifying alternate views throughout the interior. A series of curvilinear subtractions in the white canopy violate the privacy of each dressing room, allowing a peep-like view from the public to the private realm. Likewise, 8-inch (200-millimeter) gaps above the floor reveal the shoes of the undressing inhabitants, further merging private and public zones while also functioning as air conditioning return ducts.
Recessed uplights in the herringbone container illuminate the ceiling and interfere with the retail experience at specific moments. Small openings on the exterior of the container allow discrete views between the interior and exterior, yet they too are obstructed by angled, highly reflective glass. The design purposefully heightens the tension between the canopy and the container, the interior and the exterior, the clothed and unclothed. Though the metaphor of the veil is less apparent in its architectural manifestation as a screening device, indeed the design interrupts and interferes with the normative performance of shopping—an immensely optical act. In essence the design purposefully reaches between the shopper and the retail experience to amplify and expose the codes of shopping, consumption, and retail architecture.