The 150 square metre building houses a gallery and café for Chinese lifestyle brand Random. The lower space has been designed for “Ceremorning” – serving snacks and coffee, while the upper floor, dubbed “Random Play”, sees the exhibition of art pieces from independent designers.
AIR have attempted to convey the interdependence of the two sub-brands while also emphasising their individuality. They vertically divided and layered the two spaces while maintaining the same colour and material palette for both.
Canadian oak is the main material used throughout the project. It creates the sculptural building façade which blends in with surrounding buildings, asserting respect for the ancient architectural style on Daijing Lane.
AIR’s design decisions have been largely influenced by a desire to be environmentally responsible and sensitive to the neighbouring community. Practice founders Xin Liy and Jie Su explain, “Canadian oak was chosen are we consider it [to be] relatively sustainable. Firstly, for its long-term durability, and secondly, it causes less waste as most of the offcuts can be alternatively reused in smaller-scale projects”.
Despite the repetitiveness of timber used throughout the design, the spaces feel layered and visually stimulating due to a playful approach to scale and a masterful restrain present in all detailing. Strips of gloriously golden oakwood stretch around a trio of original timber columns that remain intact from the original building. A material we expect to be rigid and solid floats through the space with the fluidity of a ribbon – a simple intervention that creates a delicate but powerful spatial punch. Expansive panels of wood are layered with thin slatted panels running across the ceiling, their angled surface and shadow gaps creating a completely different spatial experience made from the same material.
The slatted oak framework on the front façade is reminiscent of a Noren – a traditional Japanese fabric divider. It’s rigid form suddenly arched up at one corner, almost as if someone was lifting up the edge of a blanket to see what lay beneath.
We commend AIR Architects on their ability to breathe new life into a material we all thought could no longer surprise us – major props!
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