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Cubes Magazine
Cubes Magazine

Farm Reframes The Familiar At Aesop 1Utama

Farm urges reconsideration of the potential of corrugated metal roofing sheets by adapting the material in inventive ways at Aesop’s new 1Utama store in Petaling Jaya. The result is meaningful, contextual retail design.



BY Narelle Yabuka

8 August, 2019


Malaysia’s Selangor region has a long history of association with tin, a material that contributed significantly to the building of Malaysia’s economy in the nineteenth century. Tin’s abundance over the centuries has seen it transformed into humble and versatile corrugated roofing sheets that are now ubiquitous to the Malaysian urban environment.

“These corrugated sheets have arguably become part of the vernacular architecture vocabulary,” says Selwyn Low, a Director at Farm, noting how tin has given way metal alloys today. “They’re frequently seen in large cities and kampungs, along highways and side streets, from homes to markets, hawker stalls and factories.”

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And now, corrugated metal sheeting defines Aesop’s new store at 1Utama shopping centre in Petaling Jaya. In a sensitive and focused mode of exploration familiar to Aesop’s retail environments the world over, Farm has investigated how corrugated roofing sheet can be adapted in inventive ways without losing its character and materiality, while forging an intimate and detail-oriented experience for customers.

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Material expression takes the leading role in the store interior, being expressed in two modes: a vertical, planar expression that celebrates the undulating surface of the material; and a horizontal stacked cross-sectional expression, celebrating the material’s edge profile and mass.

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In the first instance, corrugated sheets have been used as vertical formwork for the casting of concrete walls. Depth becomes apparent through the contrast of light and shadow across the undulations, and is played up through the expression of wall thickness via cut-away zones for the corner entry and the window display. As a counterpoint to these undulating surfaces, service counters are expressed as simple blocks of concrete with straight edges.

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The second mode of material expression – the horizontal expression – communicates density. Says Low, “The objective was to reveal a shimmering and often unseen perspective of roofing sheet: the profile edge. By varying the width and thickness of the stacks, a range of elements can be created.” These include slim product display shelves, a sturdy plinth for seating, and weighty platforms for visual merchandising. “The tactility of the corrugated sheets is literally presented through another angle, reinterpreted and appreciated anew,” says Low.

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The result is a sense of the strangely familiar – a novel recasting of something ubiquitous such that it takes on a new expressive potential. It’s the everyday as art form and experience.

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Q&A With Denise Neri,
Retail Architectural Manager, Aesop

Aesop_Denise Neri

In light of changing modes of consumption, how has Aesop’s approach to retail architecture changed? How has it remained the same?

The era of digital change has seen a parallel desire for experience, where bricks and mortar shops must work harder to engage the customer. For Aesop, providing a warm, tactile and personal experience is of utmost importance, meshing with our growing digital channel. We have always sought to deliver intelligent and authentic design and that has remained constant.

What do you see as the critical elements of the customer’s experience of an Aesop store?

The excellent and effective products, skilled personal service, a welcoming atmosphere and pleasure for all the senses.

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How does that materialise at the new 1Utama store?

The full range of Aesop products is available at 1Utama, and the same level of warm personal service offered. The design is visually intriguing; and music, fragrance and refreshments add to the overall experience.

How do you select which designers/architects you’ll work with on the design of Aesop’s stores?

Each location is different and we aim to match the designer to the project as closely as possible. Sometimes this is an external architect, or it may be one of our skilled in-house team, depending on the nature of the project.

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What is it about FARM’s approach to design (in general) that caught your attention?

The tropical modernism of the Wall House underlined contextual thinking, which is important to us. Farm’s engagement with a variety of cultural and community projects in South-East Asia also caught our attention.

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Store photography by Studio Periphery.

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