by Jerry ElengicalDec 03, 2022
China-based Atelier tao+c conceived their concept note for the new ZIIN Beijing Store along the lines of a home within a house. The main thought was why would the Chinese architects use the words “house within a house journey” for the retail space of an emerging furniture brand and not directly state ‘an adaptive reuse project.’ The new store occupies an old textile warehouse with a pitched roof and brick walls built in the 1960s. Inside the rectangular plan of the old warehouse, the new retail store takes shape within the two square frameworks intersected at 45-degree angles. The architects’ formative idea of housing a square columnar structure inside the old brick architecture shell led to the thought of perceiving the project as ‘a house within a house.’ A direct translation of an attempt to make a connection between two separate identities that contrast in design language, volume, massing, material and function.
From the exterior, ZIIN Beijing Store is a brick abode which at a glance reminds anyone of Chinese architecture’s relation and fascination with brick as a material. Even with its 30-degree sloped roof—which is extremely unique to the vernacular style of the region—and scale of the opening on the front facade is designed to embody a time when China was trying to find a way for traditional architecture, globalisation, new materials and contemporary intervention co-exists in the physical realm. However, the 45-degree glass cubical, which the architects call a transparent house, protrudes from the middle of the facade creating a break in the industrial style, providing the visitors with a glimpse into the house within. Talking about the transparent house, the architects share, “Most days, the sunshine is welcomed from the south window through the front house to the back one wrapped in timber panels, proposing the overlapping relation of the two stacked frameworks. Comparatively being positioned at 45 degrees, the diagonal direction marks a new spatial order and circulation, enriching the depth both visually and experientially.”
Inside the brick structure, the ZIIN Beijing Store presents a new architectural language. The design of the intersected square frameworks of the store expresses more characteristics of modern Japanese architecture than Chinese. Amid the solid-void relations, overlapped volumes, spatial hierarchy and geometric aesthetics, the retail store design almost appears to have drawn inspiration from the minimalism of Japanese design. The carefully curated structure groups homogeneous rooms in a continuous sequence organised in two sets of identical columns, wherein one designated room leads into another. This route aims to bring, both for different events and spontaneous gatherings, flexible places with different possibilities. The negative space, in between the existing brick walls and the new frameworks, flows along the perimeter, introducing the notion of ‘semi-interior and semi-exterior’.
On the mezzanine floor, a triangle balcony, pergolas and staircase formed from the unexpected niches formed created interesting visual nodes and points for circulation. The staircase has been placed in a unique position which results in it being a design element that is emphasised and can be viewed through the transparent house outside but remains a comparatively insignificant physical entity in the interior design. The different areas in the intersected frameworks ebbs and flows between one another without definite boundaries. While the initial perception of this structure might be complex— a combination of lines, solid planes, translucent partitions, transparent volumes and occasional curves and acute angles— as the physical experience of the space unfolds, these structures become more readable.
“Atelier tao+c aspires to capture the authentic craft of construction and express the narrative of the structure itself. From the steel structure, timber frame, and the substructure of walls to the assembled finish panels, every component is visible and traceable. Each layer of the structure was superimposed during construction, amplified from the steel floor decks to the I-beam, the ducts, the piping layer and the dropped ceiling, simulating layers of the earth, clear and identifiable to the viewer. They are both the structure and the finish, recording both the design process and the construction process, vividly telling the story of how the frameworks were built,” states the official release from the architects.
The design of ZIIN Beijing Store is an intriguing geometry spectacle. One that unwraps as a complicated maze. But what simplifies these overwhelming structural details is the material palette that oscillates between the solid heaviness of brick, wood and steel, and the transparent lightness of glass. However, that doesn’t help the visitors from turning a blind eye towards the many textures reflected across the store design. From the different grains of wood, swirls in partitions, a multitude of flooring layouts, and layers of exposed structural members, to original brickwork, the whole store is a maximalist display of textures and patterns within familiar materials. A right call for the interior design of a furniture store.
Concluding the design philosophy of the ZIIN Beijing Store, Atelier tao+c adds, “By adopting this material selection, we aspire to eliminate the hierarchy, simultaneously making no distinctions in ZIIN Store. The inherited character of ordinary materials was studied and their juxtaposition was re-combined on one elevation, narrating an embodiment of every detail design while projecting a warm and fun scene. This is an effective cost-control project that uses basic formal logic, mundane materials and construction techniques to deliver a deep expression of adaptive reuse space and details.”