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Haining is a water-bred city about 100 km to the southwest of Shanghai and 60km east of Hangzhou. Mostly known for its leather products and textiles, the city is also famous for its shadow puppetry, the art of storytelling with light and shadow that gradually evolved into cinematography. Given a street corner site and the mixed program of a retail store with a café, Lukstudio explores the idea of theatre to put the spotlight on the fashion platform of Dear So Cute.

Instilling a sense of performance in the visitors, the shopping activities are staged as a spectacle while the café area hosts the sitting audience. Three boxes cladded with steel and polycarbonate panels are placed on the elevated platform, in manner of a theatre set. Apart from hiding the existing columns, these boxes break down the original open floor into smaller rooms for a more human-scale experience. To engage shoppers or café-goers to wander and discover, windows and doorways have been opened to frame views of interest and provide clear path of circulation. The “watch and be watched” setting blurs the distinction between performers and audience. Behind the boxes are the changing rooms on the highest platform. With the floor to ceiling mirrors and a trail of pink velvet curtains at this mini-stage, trying on new treasures takes on an exhibitionist twist.

Studio Illumine applies the use of 3500K colour temperature through-out. This produces a warm ambiance in the evenings, while being cool enough to integrate well with natural lighting that penetrates the interior during the day, through the clear glazed full-height windows. A low voltage track lighting system suspends over the store, allows the use of both focus spotlights and diffused linear battens whist keeping the overall fixture profile minimal, compact and clean. Around the store, light strips are integrated within hanging displays, behind mirrors as well as wall-floor junctions to highlight the architecture and design. A clean and bright palette is being used to create a neutral backdrop for the on-going displays or activities to take the spotlight. The terraced stage is cast-in-place with white terrazzo, shaping planters and seating while designating areas for display and circulation. Two contrasting effects have been achieved by lighting pink acrylic panels behind the polycarbonate walls. On the outside, the subtle hues add warmth to the austere space; on the inside, the intense lights paint the entire room in pink and add to the intimate atmosphere. Inspired by the backstage rigging system, the display hangers, mirrors, and menu boards can be adjusted in heights with a pulley-counterweight cabling mechanism.

A variety of seating are designed to attract different café-loungers: casual tables along the façade, a bar with a view under the tilt-up window, a common table for bigger group and even a sunken area evoking a swimming pool. Clear glazing has been used to ensure unobstructed views to the interior activities, inviting others to enter and participate in the “scenes”. Through infusing the experience of an immersive theatre into the Dear So Cute store in Haining, the designers experiment how commercial activities can bring people together and contribute to a better streetscape.

Client : Dear So Cute Store and Cafe
Completion : April 2018
Interior design : Luk Studio, Shanghai
Lighting Design : Studio Illumine : Carlos Galan, Azlan Nazam, Viva Tsao
Photography credits : Dirk Weiblen
Products used : Muuto, Great Lighting

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