Sky is the limit for a designer’s creativity and this is once again confirmed in this project where the designer has used corrugated sheets for interior design of a retail store at Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. Aesop 1 Utama is an exploration into how corrugated roofing sheets can be adapted in inventive ways, without losing their essential character and materiality.
“The store is a homage to tin, and the place it has in the greater Selangor region’s life and history,” say FARM Studio, the masterminds behind Aesop 1Utama’s interior design. The designer team chose the tin material to create the space and also to relate with the Malaysian tin trade in the 19th century and the olden days of Selangor.
Commonly seen in large Cities and Kampungs, along highways and side street, homes and markets, hawker stalls and factories all over Malaysia, the corrugated “tin” roof sheet is almost part of the vernacular architecture. It is a humble, affordable, and versatile material. Originally made entirely of tin, and today more commonly of alloys, the sheets have an intrinsic link to the region of Selangor which is rich in tin mining history.
“Aesop 1 Utama is a store design in a mall for an international brand that has a focus on design and place-specificity while retaining a strong unique brand spirit. The jury enjoyed how the designers had worked with a singular vernacular material; corrugated tin, in a myriad of different ways throughout the interior, to achieve a striking design. Through a variety of design and construction methods with one material, the jury commended the designers’ rigorous process and their efforts in being able to achieve many ways of seeing, in a sophisticated and refined retail interior,” say the Juries of SIA Architectural Design Awards.
The layout of the store is simple and symmetrical with a large display window at the front; it is the material which takes center stage. The store is built essentially around two expressions of the corrugated tin, a vertical planar use of the sheets, which expresses its undulating surface, and a horizontal stacked cross-sectional approach to using the material, expressing its mass and edge profile.
In its vertical application, the sheets are used as formwork to cast concrete walls. In this way, an imprint of the actual tin sheets are left upon the concrete, and the perception and materiality of the original tin is transformed via a complementary material. The service counters are expressed as simple blocks of concrete.
In its horizontal expression, densely packed corrugated metal sheets reveal a shimmering and often unseen perspective of the corrugated tin roof: its stacked edges as a form of visual expression. By varying the width and thicknesses of the stacking, a range of elements can be created: slim product display shelves, a sturdy plinth for seating and weighty platforms for visual merchandising. Here the tactility of the tin sheets are literally seen from another angle, reinterpreted and appreciated anew.
Aesop 1 Utama takes inspiration from its location and its history. It adopts a humble and simple material and reinterprets and transforms it. It makes the ubiquitous tin roofing sheet strangely familiar and in doing so heightens one’s awareness of its innate qualities.