by Jerry ElengicalNov 11, 2022
Illustrating a plethora of essential life processes that unite all organisms on the face of the planet, the VERO Ecological Tiles Exhibition Hall and Headquarters by Foshan Topway Design presents a spatial narrative that reflects VERO’s commitment to developing building materials and products that enhance user well-being and radiate a respect for all forms of life. Located in Foshan, within China’s Guangdong Province, the project utilises aspects of biophilic design, a naturalistic palette, and the company’s own range of products in a three-storey spatial form that portrays a cycle of consumption, reproduction, and growth.
At the heart of the retail design, within the entrance lobby is a stylised spiral staircase that runs throughout the space’s three floors - rising from a conceptual water body at its base level. Slender battens plunge down towards it from the ceiling, grouped to resemble the spreading canopy of a banyan tree. The set of pillars at the centre of this arrangement serve as the trunk, and are submerged directly into the pool to illustrate the mechanism by which autotrophic organisms extract water and nutrients from soil or other growing mediums. Depicting the first stage of the spatial narrative titled ‘Draw’, these pillars develop into root-shaped sculptures that emerge from the water and unfurl out towards the floor area beyond the pool.
Walls dressed in bands of cool grey terrazzo impart a soothing, meditative atmosphere reminiscent of a secluded cave while a ribbon-like element made of Xuan paper winds around suspended planters that bear a semblance to levitating mountains. Generating an effect that evokes floating clouds, the ribbon also symbolises spreading and drifting thoughts that embody the designers’ poetic conception of the space. Woody textures, stone-hewn elements, and moss-covered surfaces complement these features and add to the distinctively earthy feel of the interior design. Mirrored walls and translucent screens expand the space and imbue an air of mystery, to arouse a visitor’s curiosity. Together, this ensemble crafts an immersive experience laden with visual associations to the natural world, to elicit strong emotional responses from visitors and foster a feeling of responsibility towards the environment.
The staircase’s winding form draws a viewer’s eye upwards through the forest of stalactite-like battens towards the upper floor. Featuring micro-cement handrails and curving lighting design strips along the lower edge of its stringer, the stair’s curved form is a counterpoint to the rectilinear arrangement of spaces as well as the patterns seen in enclosing wall finishes. The second phase dubbed ‘Breed’ finds its place on the succeeding level, in a space that channels a myriad of different textures to create a distinctive aesthetic. Leaning upon an old Chinese proverb which states that "the rotted grass turns into a cocoon, and the cocoon is born into a firefly", the design interprets a cocoon as the origin of life, and incorporates this state of metamorphosis into the space through a cocoon-shaped art installation that greets visitors at the staircase’s upper landing.
From here, visitors are led to a bar and reception area settled beneath a ceiling composed of an intersecting frame system of beams made from wood and metal mesh, interspersed with hanging plants. Stalactite-like projections, similar to the ones seen on the level below, house lighting fixtures and interject the overhead grid. Translucent white screens enclosing the interior absorb the silhouettes of leaves and trees outside the space, generating patterns across their surfaces. A textured bar counter occupies one end of the space, surrounded by leisurely lounges, and wood-finished steps around a lecture theatre that offers cosy spots for visitors to relax, enjoy a cup of coffee, and absorb the scenery around them. The second floor also hosts a product display area and a vertical forest space - both featuring the suspended battens and pillars from the lobby.
Playing the part of the third and final phase of the narrative, the theme guiding the design of the uppermost level is named ‘Grow’, with spaces that showcases a marriage between living spaces and the environment. Illuminating the dwindling relationship between nature and urban living, this section of the exhibition space explores how reforging links to nature can aid in achieving a sense of peace within one’s own home. To this end, the third floor houses display rooms for an ‘Italian home experience’, a western-style apartment kitchen, a box space, a toilet experience space, and an additional product display area.
Through its highly conceptual and stylised design, VERO Ecological Tiles Exhibition Hall & Headquarters exemplifies the current emergence of exhibition spaces as a playground for designers and architects to explore their wildest whims and follow a more theoretical and metaphorical attitude towards the practice of developing spatial narratives.
Name: VERO Ecological Tile Exhibition Hall & Headquarters
Location: Foshan, Guangdong
Area: 1500 sqm
Year of Completion: 2021
Design firm: Foshan Topway Design
Chief designers: Wang Zhike & Li Xiaoshui
Design team: Qiu Wenfeng, Liu Yangzhu, Zhang Yazhou, Zhou Shenghua, Chen Jiamin
Decoration design: Yang Shiwei