Guangzhou-based design studio DOMANI Architectural Concepts has a reputation for minimalist sophistication which marries a forward-looking, contemporary aesthetic with timeless appeal, so it makes perfect sense that cosmetology brand “Meunier Technology Beauty” commissioned the studio to design its flagship store in Shenzhen, China. Conceived as a reflection of the complexity of the female identity and the intertwined concepts of gender and sex, creative director Ann Yu conjured an ascetic yet dramatic space of sculptural enchantment and subtle contradictions that immerses guests into a dreamlike environment more akin to an avant-garde sculpture gallery than a beauty clinic.
The store’s interior design is underpinned by a stripped-back, minimalist sensibility that nevertheless belies a rich amalgam of contradictions: slender, lightweight metal and glass furnishings converse with chunky blocks of concrete; smooth, curvaceous forms are set against rugged, craggy textures; and shimmering, polished brass surfaces are juxtaposed with muted expanses of cement. Far from saturating or confounding the senses, these antagonistic statements in mass, form and texture are harmoniously combined into a sculptural composition aided by the mirrored ceilings and the mellow daylight filtering in from the building’s glass facade. More than an architectural gesture of minimalist elegance, the contradictory sensibility of DOMANI’s interior design poetically alludes to the complexity of the female identity and the intricacies of contemporary feminism, as well as reflects the antagonistic yet symbiotic relationship of external and internal beauty.
The sculptural quality of the interior design is primarily based on the collection of bespoke furniture by A&V, the studio’s design brand, which range from slender, undulating brass benches and razor-thin brass table tops that seem to be suspended mid-air thanks to a glass base, to the deconstructed composition of concrete volumes in the lounge area. The latter is a sculptural installation of abstract expressionism but it’s also a metaphor for the complexity of the female psyche: softly curved and delicately sculpted yet heavyset and robust with “damaged” spots that represent the “scars in the historical evaluation of feminism”.
While the public areas are conceived as a free-flowing sequence of spaces, the treatment rooms are intimate enclosures that shut out the rest of the world and encourage contemplation and self-reflection. Smooth concrete surfaces, polished brass furnishings and mirrored ceilings that echo the design language of the public areas imbue the rooms with a soothing, hypnotic ambience that aid relaxation. Meanwhile, above the treatment beds, undulating mirrored panels that evoke rippling water greet guests as they open their eyes after a treatment which can also be construed as a clever retelling of the myth of Narcissus: unlike the doomed youth who looked sadly down into the water, guests at Meunier look up at their reflection with a sense of elation.