a massive sculpture that looks like a tree
The tree’s convoluted naturalistic form was devised in collaboration with local artists and artisans.

Still Young Brings the Outdoors in at Arc’teryx Beijing Flagship

Of all the world’s great cities, Vancouver has one of the closest connections to nature. Surrounded by dense forests, scenic waterways, and snow-capped mountains that offer access to miles of hiking trails and limitless space for wilderness pursuits, the western Canadian seaport is a fitting base for Arc’teryx, a high-performance brand for outdoor apparel and equipment. In contrast, Beijing’s endless urban sprawl might seem an odd location for one of the company’s stores. However, following China’s strict pandemic lockdowns, and spurred by the 2022 Winter Olympics hosted in the capital, the outdoor sports market has grown significantly across the country’s first-tier cities, and demand for suitable attire has kept pace.

More than simply selling clothes to both new fans and veteran enthusiasts of hiking, skiing, and rock climbing, the new Arc’teryx flagship in the trendy Sanlitun neighborhood aims at projecting the plein-air lifestyle of Canada’s Coast Mountains by translating the region’s adventure-driven attitude for Beijingers. “The store interior not only displays outdoor gear but also conveys a connection with nature,” says Eric Ch, founder of Still Young, the Shanghai-based studio assigned the project. Given the context, this decoding required a sizeable amount of imagination and a few reinvented tropes—skills the firm has honed creating a number of much-admired immersive commercial spaces. “To showcase Vancouver’s ambiance to a Chinese audience, we integrated British Columbia’s natural beauty and outdoor culture into the shop’s design, allowing customers to feel its unique essence through visual elements and material choices,” Ch continues, setting the scene.

For an Outdoor Clothing Brand, Nature Serves as Inspiration 

a custom fiber reinforced–plastic sculpture in the form of an enormous tree trunk at the entrance of Arc'teryx in Beijing
At the Arc’teryx flagship in Beijing by Still Young, a custom fiber reinforced–plastic sculpture in the form of an enormous tree trunk envelops the two-level store’s main staircase.

What’s the most recognizable symbol of nature? A tree. To Still Young, this seemed like a good place to start. The studio also wanted the interior to feel rooted (pun intended) in its location, so Ch and his team looked to arboreal interpretations by local artists to find forms that felt appropriate for the teeming metropolis. Working with these artists and a roster of skilled craftspeople, they built a fiber reinforced–plastic sculpture in the shape of an enormous, ancient tree trunk—a gnarled and twisted form that occupies the fully glazed street corner of the 9,500-square-foot, two-story store, engulfing a staircase before disappearing through the ceiling. Clearly visible from the street, the biomorphic structure gives passersby the impression that the emporium was built around a massive tree and not the other way around. This act of botanical reinterpretation, as Ch notes, “became the main source of inspiration, aiming to perfectly blend urban outdoor culture and art with the store environment.”

Arc'teryx's company logo glows behind the cash wrap counter
The company logo backdrops the cash-wrap counter, in painted concrete, on the ground floor.

Biomorphic Forms and Natural Materials Add Visual Interest

Inside, where organic forms and natural-appearing materials proliferate, customers might well think they’re exploring a forest. Clad in glass fiber–reinforced concrete with a wood-effect finish, the walls and ceiling in a ground-floor room dedicated to professional apparel meld into a continuous freeform shell that gives the space the look and feel of a hollow carved into another tree. Similarly sculpted surfaces in the same material feature throughout the interior, defining grottolike fitting rooms or, finished with chalky plaster, creating an events space that resembles a rock cavern eroded by wind and water. Outfitted with sofa seating and state-of-the art audiovisual equipment, it could be a high-tech lounge from the stone age. Artificial-stone outcrops and low bleachers made from piles of what appear to be milled-timber logs are dotted throughout the open areas, creating islands for visual merchandising.

Not everything is nature-inflected, however. Some zones have been given a harder, more industrial treatment that ties them closer to the contemporary Beijing cityscape. On the second floor, for instance, an enclosed room for urban wear features a mostly gray materials palette that includes concrete floor tiles; display units incorporating brushed metal, polished stainless steel, and mirror; and huge LED-illuminated acrylic light boxes on the walls and pitched ceiling, the latter a nod to the roofs of classic Chinese architecture, as are the undulating pantiles that clad one wall. The cumulative impression is of camping in a very futuristic tent. Other moments of sharp detailing occur throughout the store, such as the ubiquitous clothing-rack system—metal rails suspended from post-and-beam framework—or the minimalist track LEDs tucked into the ceilings.

All these visually expressive elements connect with both the rugged environment and sophisticated technology around which Arc’teryx was built. “It wasn’t just a store-design project but a process of narrating a brand story and creating customer experiences,” says Ch, who delved deep into the company’s history and philosophy along with the climate—cultural, physical, and even meteorological—of its home territory. “We strove to create a space that didn’t simply showcase products but also conveyed a lifestyle and set of values.” Given the brand’s intrinsic link to the natural world, it was imperative that the choice of materials and construction methods both inside and out represent consideration for the environment and sustainability. “We hope that this store reflects not only the company’s ideals but also our own care for the future of the Earth,” Ch concludes.

clothing hanging on a stainless-steel rail
Clothing hangs on stainless-steel rails suspended from post-and-beam framework.

If the store interior embodies these convictions successfully, so too does the facade, which juxtaposes vast expanses of glass with slabs of FRP colored and textured to mimic striated mountain escarpments. But it’s another sculptural installation—a giant pine cone sitting on a platform in the glazed corner window as if it had just dropped from the tree above—that most succinctly captures the project’s multiple intentions and practices. While the 7-foot-tall conifer seed obviously pays homage to nature in a directly mimetic sense, it is also an artisanal object that evokes the realms of art, craft, and sustainability—the last because it’s made entirely of molded pulp from factory waste.

Walk Through the Arc’teryx Beijing Flagship

the entrance to Arc'teryx sheltered beneath a cantilevered canopy
Entry to the 9,500-square-foot store is sheltered beneath a cantilevered canopy.
a massive sculpture that looks like a tree
The tree’s convoluted naturalistic form was devised in collaboration with local artists and artisans.
outdoor gear on display in an open room with window racks and a large tree sculpture
The second level, floored in wood-grain ceramic tile, is mostly open space where apparel hangs on window racks or is displayed on mannequins grouped around freestanding custom frames.
a concrete tile floor in an ancillary room
Flooring changes to concrete tile in an ancillary room.
an events space with trunklike tables at Arc'teryx
Modular seating and trunklike tables populate the second-floor events space.
walls with a chalky finish are found in this event space for an outdoor-apparel brand
Undulat­ing event-space walls are GRC with a chalky finish.
grottolike fitting rooms at Arc'teryx
The same material with a wood-effect surface encloses the grottolike fitting rooms.
a wood-like surface covers the floor, ceiling, and walls in this room at an outdoor apparel brand's store
It also forms the continuous ceiling and walls in the ground-floor room for professional apparel and equipment, where custom benches are imitation obsidian and display niches are backed with panels of FRP rock.
the urban wear room with an industrial feel at Arc'teryx
Backlit acrylic ceiling and wall panels outfit the enclosed room for urban wear, where the intended feel is more industrial than biophilic.
a wall with textured concrete-look pantiles
One of its walls is faced with textured concrete-look pantiles, a nod to traditional Chinese roofs.
a rock-like facade on a outdoor-apparel brand's storefront
Sections of the store facade are covered with slabs of FRP colored and textured to resemble striated rocks.
outdoor apparel on display in a wood-accented room
Display vignettes incorporate stacked imitation milled-timber logs made of wood veneer on a plywood base and FRP stone outcrops.
a large pine cone sculpture made of molded pulp from factory waste
Visible from the street, a 7-foot-tall pine cone is made of molded pulp from factory waste.

still young: dawn du; dada zhao; linda li; laura cai; mayi zhang; azel wang; ethan li; cc li; donald lin; ken tao; james xu; abel lu; asha li; douglas xu.

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