Located on the most prestigious commercial street in Hangzhou, China, a short walk away from West Lake (a UNESCO World Heritage Site of extraordinary natural beauty and cultural heritage), the latest branch of Chinese cosmetics retail brand HAYDON invites customers into an immersive, dreamlike universe where beauty is a state of mind rather than a prescribed aesthetic. Architecture and interior design practice Various Associates drew inspiration from the mist-covered West Lake, designing a fluid, free-flowing space of rounded volumes, spiralling lines and swirling circulation zones swathed in hazy, silver-toned reflections. The result is an abstract, futuristic landscape, both stimulating and calming, offering a unique retail experience reflecting the brand’s core values, namely freedom, individuality and exploration.
Surrounded by scenic mountains, and peppered with ancient temples, pagodas and other picturesque landmarks, West Lake is deservingly one of the best-known attractions in China as well as one of the country’s most important cultural reference points having inspired numerous poets, painters and garden designers over the centuries. In the mist, the landscape takes on a particularly sublime ambience as memorialized by “Praising West Lake in the Rain”, a well-known poem by 11th century Chinese poet Su Shi. The designers have used the sensation of the mist-covered lake as a mood-board, not just because of its inherent beauty and romanticism but also because it’s aligned with the brand’s values, creating a spatial experience that feels free, inclusive and full of uncertainties.
Stepping into the store, you are immediately taken aback by the frenzy of arced forms swirling around the space – all part of the excitement arising from the contrast to the rectilinear, boxy exterior. Taking a cue from the brand’s name, which in Chinese means black hole, the retail and circulation spaces seem to be orbiting a central core at the top of which the HAYDON logo stands out against a black backdrop – the only place in the store where black is used. Arc-shaped display cases, balustrades and ceiling recesses that also whirl around the central core further evoke the sense of a celestial universe, as do the gleaming, silver leaf surfaces that purposefully allude to the foil-like aerospace materials used for insulating satellite and space stations.
In order to create the desired spatial effect, the building’s interior was completely redone with a new mezzanine level connecting the ground and first floors. Inspired by West Lake’s famous Broken Bridge, a spiral staircase that narrows as it ascends leads customers to the mezzanine level, a part-circulation, part product display area that in turn takes you up to the upper floor via a second staircase – the entire sequence, a spiralling journey that twists and turns, engulfing you deeper and deeper into the brand’s cosmos. “From the perspective of feng shui”, as the designers point out, “breaking the routine means breaking the space pattern”.
Combined with a variety of sophisticated lighting sources, from dense light strips that transform the ceilings into shimmering light fields, to concealed lighting that make the product display cases seem to float above the ground, the curved, silver leaf-clad surfaces flood the space with ever shifting patterns of reflections, made all the more mesmeric by the plethora of mirrors. Found throughout the store, the mirrors enhance the futuristic otherworldliness of the interior design, familiarize customers with their reflection as they wander around, and allow them to try product samples with convenience – case in point, the mirrored strips that are aligned with the arc-shaped product display cabinets, and the mirrored partitions on the first floor that double as impromptu dressing rooms.
Futuristic in sensibility yet poetic in ambience, conspicuously designed and richly layered yet restrained, HAYDON’s Hangzhou store evocatively embodies the brand’s tagline, Beauty & Freedom, inviting customers to explore the wonderland in their own individual way.