Architype Dialogue presents
Robert Miller & Christian Evans
What was the most difficult issue about working within this building type or the most unexpected challenge that may have influenced new thought in your project?
We were intrigued by the building’s prominent location in the Shanghai’s shopping district and were asked to transform the site into a single, clear identity for Uniqlo. The existing building provided a significant challenge with its drab office building exterior and a very rough vacant shell. The local code requirements restricted any new cladding to within a foot of the existing façade and did not allow any exterior lighting. We designed a new façade of white perforated aluminum panels floats in front of the old with a pattern that implies fabric. Lighting is done from within the building, through the original windows, allowing the perforated panels to glow.
Did this project expand or evolve your role as an architect in any way? In general, do you feel that the role of the architect is changing on current projects?
More often we are being asked to integrate the clients’ branding as part of the architecture. Not only did we work with Uniqlo to design an overall building identity and image, but we also worked with them on specific product presentation down to the finite details of shirt module and thickness. This resulted in a richer, more integrated design where the product itself became part of the architecture.
How is your building possible today in a way that it may not have been before and how have trends in technology and society inspired new thought and solutions?
When we began working with Uniqlo, we were very impressed by their innovative internet-based advertising. These links introduce you to Uniqlo in a wonderfully artful way that involves music, video and dance, some of which happen in real time. We wanted to connect to this energy which ultimately led us to the concept of the central glass atrium with flying mannequins as well as the rotating mannequins. We saw these elements as performance spaces not only for the store, but that could also be linked to their web program.
In the context of this project, how is your office and design process being influenced by current trends in academic curricula and incoming young architects? In turn, how are current projects and processes guiding the ongoing reformulation and development of academic curricula?
Students today have an ease and openness to new ideas and software that was critical to this project. One example of many is the design of the exterior cladding. The perforation pattern for the cladding was formulated from a collage of photographs of fabric that was quickly translated into a perforation pattern. The software used for this translation was found on the internet and mastered quickly by our team. The team’s confidence and facility with new software was critical to the realization of this design.
Architype Review thanks Robert Miller and Christian Evans for their interview and for contributing to this collection of Architype Dialogue.