Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Kki Sweets and The Little Drom in Singapore by PRODUCE Workshop Pte Ltd
November 28th, 2015 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: PRODUCE Workshop Pte Ltd
Kki Sweets sells beautifully handcrafted Japanese-inspired French mousse cakes, and The Little Dröm Store offers art and design driven knick-knacks. And they share a space at the School of the Arts (SOTA) building in Singapore.
While the design brief is simple – the two brands share a storefront, and thus they need to retain their distinctive identities and yet not look like two completely separate entities – the key challenge is to create an appropriate work that meets the standards of the award-winning SOTA building, and to create something new despite the influence of such a commanding piece of architecture.
The solution lies in American literary critic Harold Bloom’s ‘Anxiety of Influence’. Bloom had warned against the paralysing anguish, doubt and self-consciousness that masterful precursors inevitably instil in young poets, and offered six methods of creative misprision to overcome this struggle.
Using two of Bloom’s methods – ‘Daemonisation’ (or “counter-sublime” which looks at the original source of inspiration that will naturally supersede the precusor) and ‘Apophrades’ (or “return of the dead” which is about direct engagement with the end objective of confronting the original design) – PRODUCE taps into the deep structure of SOTA and seeks not only to formulate an alternative interpretation of the building typology but to provide a diagram from which SOTA can be read.
The result is a shop space for Kki Sweets and The Little Dröm Store that is a distillation of the SOTA building into its most essential diagram – a datum plane and the volumes that it segregates (i.e. the essence of SOTA’s architecture is a triple-layered parti with performance auditoriums at the base and classrooms on top. The middle layer, the datum plane, is an open mezzanine looking down at the auditorium foyers).
The datum plane within the shop is designed as a porous trellis so that the entire diagram can be observed and experienced from within. In the Kki Sweets section, volumes above the plane hints at the imaginary while the volumes below are adapted to practical requirements of eating and merchandising, forming tables and shelves, intimate interiors, and close-knitted exteriors.
The plane continues into The Little Dröm Store inversely. Instead of forming voids, it occupies a volume that forms the floor of a “tree house” (a theme closely related to the brand).
With the idea of the datum plane linking the two shops at a higher level, the shops are actually conceived as separate and independent entities on the ground. They are seen as occupying an open space, and separated by an “internal street” leading in from the main door with their frontage and signage orientated toward each other. This street-like space extends into KKI, meandering between the volumes of rooms.
The primary materials used are maple veneered plywood for the volumes and solid pine strips for the trellis. They are selected for their light colour so that the structure acts like a blank canvas on which the two shops can fill with colours with their variety of products. The light coloured maple and pine also helps contrast with the darker colours of the SOTA atrium.
Despite the visual lightness the timber volumes convey, there are actually steel hollow section framework within. Supports to the ground are disguised as table legs and doorframes to achieve a “lifted” effect.
The site offers a 19.3m long x 3.6m high glass frontage facing an open stage in the atrium. The large glass surface allows the shops to participate in performance space instead of being outside of it. Hence the design of the shops is expressed as a cross section with the glass façade forming the cutting plane. When viewed from the stage, one is able to see clearly the relationship of the different parts in the shop space, much like a framed section drawing.
Kki Sweets wants to present an image that is simple and clean yet pristine and refined, to reflect their cakes which have simple geometric shapes but complex in details and construction. They also want an intimate environment for conversations to happen, and to present their new line “Kki Home”, which focuses on crafted lifestyle items. Being a new brand, Kki Home needs a distinct presence in the shop space. As such, Kki is conceived as a series of volumes or “houses” dispersed across an open space forming interstitial streets. The envelope of the houses has built-in tables that allows for conversations to happen between the exterior and interior; painting a village-like community with spaces that are subdued and reserved, and ideal for intimate experiences.
The “windows” are used to hang plants, creating an integrated lighting feature with greenery and a sense of a skylight above. LED lights are embedded in grooves carved into the hanging trellis to throw light upwards, and then reflected down to show off the colourful cakes on display. The lighting feature also hints at the imaginative, which is what the art school should be.
Separating the two shops is an internal street with the frontage of each shop facing the street.
“Dröm” means dream in Swedish and The Little Dröm Store is candid, forthright and at times, eccentric and whimsical like a dream.
Their tree house concept encapsulates their attitude to living and existence. As space is critical to The Little Dröm Store, as they need to almost endlessly pack and display their products and collections, there are little pop-up kiosks in the form of counters and pushcarts occupying the space under the treehouse. In combination, it forms an imaginary living environment that they wanted to portray.
The porous trellis datum plane links the two shops at a higher level though the shops are actually conceived as separate and independent entities on the ground. To achieve the top volume, the designers cut through the ceiling to install steel rods to the concrete for hanging the trellis.
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