Shigeru Ban, Hon. FAIA, swung through New York on Tuesday to open a new store in Soho that he designed for Camper, the Spanish shoe company. At a diminutive 1,200 square feet, the commission presented an oversized set of challenges. A landmarked building in a landmarked neighborhood, the project came with a tight set of restrictions. Then came the issue of distinguishing a retail space in Soho, a neighborhood teeming with points of purchase. “This was not an easy project, but I like designing with constraints,” Ban says.
Keeping the structure intact, Ban removed existing windows and walls, replacing them with floor-to-ceiling sliding glass walls that can be opened in the warmer months. Capitalizing on this new transparency, he transformed the store’s single long wall into a billboard—that announces “Camper” in the company’s red-and-white logo and—that doubles as a display case for the shoe collection. By working with changes in perspective, Ban was able to consolidate the branding and display in this single gesture. From Prince Street, the vertical facets converge to make the graphic legible, but from within the store, customers discover the display cases embedded in the wall. “I tried to separate each shoe so it has its own space,” Ban says. Seating comes in the form of Ban’s 10 Unit System benches from Artek, which are made from a composite material composed largely of recycled wood and paper.
An art installation on top of the single- story structure animates the store’s elevation for . A series of cardboard tubes converge to form a gable, giving a traditional form to what Camper calls its “House of Shoes.” Asked why he chose a gabled roof in an historic, formerly industrial district, Ban replied, “it seemed lonely, this one- story building.”
Ban also recently partnered with Camper in designing its traveling pavilion for the Volvo Ocean Race: a circular structure supported by cardboard tubes. “When I learned that Camper shoes were made out of recycled material, I was amazed,” says Ban, who has worked extensively with recycled paper. “I realized there were many things we share, which would make for a good collaboration.”