Ben Morgan brings us his impressions of the glamorous new Zaha Hadid-designed Roca London Gallery.
24 October, 2011
Yesterday, I was lucky enough to get a tour of the newly opened Roca London Gallery, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects. The glamorous showroom – just across the road from Imperial Wharf station and the Chelsea Harbour design precinct – has turned what were 4 separate retail spaces into one massive showcase for Roca’s bathroom products.
The movement of water and the natural processes by which it creates and moves through spaces has inspired the London gallery. As Zaha Hadid explains: “Using a formal language derived from the movement of water, the Roca London Gallery has been eroded and polished by fluidity; generating a sequence of dynamic spaces carved from this fascinating interplay between architecture and nature.”
The façade of the ground-floor showroom has been clad in massive 4-metre-high concrete panels – ingeniously created by a German firm with a fibreglass-reinforced honeycomb core – complete with ’ripples’ and curved glass windows. The interiors are eerily akin to natural caves, with another 230 huge grey and white concrete panels (each one unique), combined with fibreglass panels, furniture and lighting and seamless gypsum panelling. Even the fibreglass reception desk is tucked away, to give visitors a sense of entering a natural space.
Each stony, cave-like ’room’ hides a bright white concrete core where Roca’s products pull focus, while a clever system of precast boltholes and stainless steel plugs throughout allow for the bathroom fixtures to be hung and re-placed with changing of collections.
The gallery is classic Hadid, with its flowing form and obvious use of computer modelling. Despite the strength and prominence of the design, the products don’t play second fiddle; they feel utterly at home in the space, and yet don’t distract from the design and construction brilliance of the building.
As you move through the space, small details become apparent and honestly make you feel a little sorry for the poor people who had to put it all together. Like the ripple-effect tiles, individually laser cut and placed together like a big jigsaw – no, they didn’t get a big box with a picture on the lid, I asked – or the large cut-outs between the spaces, which provide glimpses of the rooms and products beyond.
There is nothing else to do when confronted by this space than to stand back in awe of the collaborative work of the architects, builders, contractors and Roca that have created such a marvel. Now, you may not want to live in a place like this, but as showrooms go, you won’t see much better.
Ben Morgan is a freelance writer now based in London. Check out more from Ben on his blog.
Zaha Hadid Architects
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