Located within the Shanghai World Financial Center (SWFC), a new shop for the Japanese company JINS Eyewear designed by Tokyo-based architect Junya Ishigami has neither street frontage nor facade. It doesn’t even have a front door. Instead, the entrance opens completely to the building’s internal mall, with shutters for nighttime security. In effect, the public corridor serves as the shop’s circulation, since customers must exit into it to move between the counters—thick slabs of concrete that appear to float effortlessly above the floor. Creating a fluid retail space, these suspended surfaces enable people to roam freely with unobstructed views of the inventory: 1,000 pairs of trendy frames.
There are five concrete counters, measuring 26, 36, or 39 feet long; three are designated for display, while the other two are for the sales and “while-you-wait” assembly of the glasses. Mirrors and an eye-exam area hug the rear walls, with a back office occupying the only enclosed space.
“Normally in retail shops, the interior design is just surface treatments and furniture,” says Ishigami. But this shop consists of elements that are architectural in scale and materiality, and were made by a conventional building contractor. More than skin-deep, these components needed their own supports, since the SWFC’s existing structure could not be touched. Ishigami rose to the challenge by incorporating a self-contained prestressed system, reinforcing the cantilevered counters with H-beams that connect to additional H-beams, which he’d embedded in the wall. In turn, these are welded to an expansive steel sheet that sits on top of the entire shop floor. Bowed slightly, this heavy plate offsets the weight of the 10-inch-thick poured-in-place-concrete counters.
More architectural fit-up than room furnishing, the counters hover 32 inches off the floor and are lit from above by suspended luminaires emitting a cool 4,000-Kelvin color temperature. This strong light accentuates the eyewear as well as the shop’s spare interior. Enclosed by chalky mortar walls and exposed piping overhead, it is a stark contrast with the bright colors and garish signage of the neighboring stores. “I wanted to make a void space within a shopping mall,” says Ishigami.
This unexpected and unprecedented scheme aptly represents the JINS mission of producing “eyeglasses that create personality.” For creating their boutiques—as well as their eyewear frames—JINS routinely hires independent designers. “I prefer working with architects on a space because they make more of an impact,” explains JINS founder and CEO Hitoshi Tanaka. The fashion-forward company strives to keep up with the latest styles—and, of course, that could mean that, after five years, even a shop as original as Ishigami’s will need a fresh look.