Architype Dialogue presents

Yoshihito Kashiwagl and Olivia Shih

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 found to design a space which delays the “speed of consumption” in design style something challenging in retail design.

There is certain transience, fashion, and catchiness required of retail design. The investment in producing a retail design reaches its peak in attracting customers at the time of completion; slowly the attraction fades until a new design is required. The lifespan of this design may have been 2-3 years in the past, however it is now reduced to 6 months – 1 year, or less, before consumers start to require new excitement. This change of speed is most likely brought about by the surplus of information, the accessibility of design news and change of lifestyle in general.

For example, comparing the impressions given by a shop now and 6 months ago, somehow the shop seems to be out of fashion in the 6 months period, although it is exactly the same shop; this is simply because the person looking at the shop feels that it is “out of fashion”. The design of the shop is dependent upon the material and thematic trend as well as its connotation, hence when this connotation of trend changes according to time, it is without a doubt that the meaning implied by the design changes to cause a different impression.

Therefore we have decided to approach the design of Sneakerology, independent of this “connotation of the material and thematic trend”. By analyzing the naming of the shop, we discovered its underlying retail philosophy: “to express the merchandise (Sneaker) in a scholarly fashion (-ology)”. We placed our design emphasis on this philosophy, and tirelessly explored methods to give physicality to this philosophy. As a result, we reached a simple expression of “sneaker showcase”; it is in this kind of expression of design essence where we feel a longevity in design style, which will not lose its impressiveness within a mere few years.

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?

Our projects come from not only in Australia but also from many different countries such as Japan, China, and France. Because of this global nature of our work, seems as though there is a variety of roles we are required to play as architects; however if we think further in depth, fundamentally “what we are doing” is not different from “what we have been doing”. As long as we are designing space for people, we believe our role is primarily the same.

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?

The genre and amount of available consumables are increasing at an immeasurable rate; it is a curious concern in the modern day that due to this immeasurable increase, it becomes ever so difficult for people to find what they really want. It is also more likely to find on the Internet cheaper price at any on time one wishes to shop. Although there are so many benefits brought upon by Internet shopping, we believe the biggest benefit amongst all is the convenience Internet shopping brings to the consumers in simplifying the process to “find what they really want”.

If this is the case, there is no reason why we should not be utilizing the Internet as interface of consumerism. The consumer who finds what he/ she wants on the Internet, visits the shop after checking merchandise size and availability on the Internet. He/ she then learns more about the merchandise in detail (such as design concept of the particular sneaker) through the touchpanels located centrally in the shop. It is important at this point to maintain a consistent numbering system managing the merchandises on the Internet, the touchpanels as well as the “sneaker showcases”. As soon as the consumer recognizes the merchandise as a sum of data, all he/ she needs to do is to search according to the number assigned to each “sneaker showcase” to be able to see the actual merchandise, and to physically be in contact with the merchandise. The journey of “find what they really want” in the virtual world is now concluded smoothly in the discovery of the actual merchandise in the shop.

In terms of retail design, we consider the potential of technology lies in its capability to help simplifying the discovery process of “find what they really want”.

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?

The recent trend of BIM assisted design gives architects the sense of possibility in new design expressions, and to surprise spectators of the these forms created by utilizing this technology. However we would like to pause for some thoughts here: “Is it possible that we are simply amazed by our familiarity of this technology, and the complicated unique forms generated by it?” The foundation of our thinking should remain in defining of design meaning, and the user of the space – human. A space absent of these 2 elements can be referred to as a “selfish” space created solely by the ego of its architect.

What we have designed for this project is a simple 200mmX600mm “sneaker showcase”. If we put it in a simplistic manner, all we did was to repeat the “sneaker showcase” 281 times over. This modularized box was efficiently produced in the factory off-site and to reduce the material wastage as much as we could. On-site the assemblage is a continuity of simple repetition, with the construction process itself also being of simple nature. By doing so, the modularized box has a high level of built-in flexibility, which can easily adapt to the unique shape of the site. Although this space is a product of series of simple processes, the impact it gives people is nothing short of impressiveness.

We believe, this process of giving physicality to a simple idea is still valid in creating spaces that are capable to amaze people, and to touch their heart; we believe that fantastic spaces can still be created without the need to complicatedly design and compete with acrobatic building forms.

Architype Review thanks Yoshihito Kashiwagi and Olivia Shih for their interview and for contributing to this collection of Architype Dialogue.

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