When Mr. Chen approached us, we were somewhat surprised. Pear River was an “ad-hoc” built environment, very different from the modernist aesthetic we professed, but his statement that “the container does not need to be traditional or even oriental, the product is” won us to the project.
The new look , as requested by the client, is at “the threshold of” and maintains the mix of sophistication, order, eclectic chaos and simplicity, tradition and contemporary sensibility, it is universal and truly oriental, inexpensive and luxurious, mixture that made the store famous.
The two lower floors are designed employing the economy of few architectural elements; the merchandise is situated around interior courts similar to the Chinese Courtyard Houses, marked by large scale portal elements, the easy to navigate plan is mirrored in the ceiling pattern, the fixtures color-cod the departments.
The mezzanine teahouse is curiously a calming and quiet oasis in the building store, the waterfall made of metal panels modeled after Chinese roof shingles provides the background sound of nature, the landing of the new stair on which it sits being comfortable enough to stop and enjoy.
The Pearl River Mart expansion to the second floor faced us with several immediate challenges: Mr. Chen required a high degree of flexibility due to the unpredictable nature of the product displayed, the new floor needed to be at once visually connected but physically separated from the main floor, the new floor access being through the public building lobby and stair, both in need of complete reconstruction.
Just as with first project, interpreting the new storefront design was a critical part of the store design, the solution hinged on the redesign of the dramatic three floors high building lobby where a 30' feet high fire rated glass slot visually connects the main and new selling floors.
The visitor is transported to his destination by the circulation path which, like a river flowing between its banks, connects a series of large abstract shapes. The platforms, simultaneously acting as viewing platforms and performance spaces, are intimate enough to display domestic furnishings.
The lighting system wire support has been designed to satisfy the technical needs while completely revealing the integrity of the historical envelope. The industrial loft aesthetic is reinforced by the use of exterior grade “green materials” for the fabrication of the fixtures: Trespa panels, commonly used for building siding, roofing concrete planks, aluminum, steel “tiles”, exposed brick, bamboo and steel light-wells retaining walls for the vitrines.