Valextra by Neri & Hu Design and Research Office: 2018 Best of Year Winner for Small Retail Project
Retail is a bright spot of Neri & Hu Design and Research Office‘s diverse practice. So it was natural that the venerated Italian leather brand Valextra enlisted firm partners Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu for its latest flagship, a moody jewel box in Chengdu, China, totaling 1,700 square feet. The Interior Design Hall of Fame members hatched a novel concept to unify architecture and display: a conjoined library and reading room.
The store exterior introduces a subtheme of geometric play and the notion of “raised mass,” Neri explains. The two-story facade reads as a monolith block of concrete, punctured on one corner; a curved glass wall with bronze-framed doors is set deep within the archway’s void.
Patrons enter into the library, a circular space defined by ceiling-hung walnut shelving that floats a few inches above reclaimed-brick pavers. In the center of the room, the brick seems to push up from the floor plane to meet a slab of white marble—actually an L-shape display unit for the presentation of handmade goods. “It’s positioned right below a conical light funnel that recalls the oculus of the Pantheon,” Hu points out.
A portal at the rear of the library’s walnut screen leads to the rectilinear reading room, where the brand’s most exclusive products are showcased. Walls and shelves are clad in jade-green tile with a reflective glaze. The shopping procession culminates in a weighty focal table comprising sedimentarylike layers of brick, porcelain tile, chinoiserie, and reclaimed wood—an artful pedestal to luxury.
Project Team: Federico Saralvo; Jacqueline G. Min; Nicolas Fardet.