chengdu: fang suo commune store opening

© chu chih-kang space design

no longer the land of bonanza with double digit growth rates, china shifts into lower gear while its urban population has adopted a more sophisticated view on the good life and all the prerequisite trophies that come with it. and although this new state of mind has resulted in fewer openings of luxury retail establishments in the country's top-tier cities than in the years before, a growing number of initiatives are seen that aren't less high-end, but clearly signal a new awareness and a ditto definition of lifestyle. a good example of this trend is fang suo commune, a new retail concept which was launched last year with a much-publicized flagship store in guangzhou, china's third largest city.

interestingly, it's a joined effort by three chinese entrepreneurs: fashion mogul mao jihonghong kong-based graphic designer stanley wong, and last but not least, co-founder of taiwan's renowned eslite bookstore empire, liao mei-li. thinking out of the box, the trio set out to establish a lifestyle retail concept with a distinct chinese cultural identity, instead of importing yet another foreign formula like so many other local tycoons had done before them. four years after the store concept was launched, fang suo commune opened a second and even bigger flagship store in chengdu, china's newest top-tier city.

the store occupies a whopping 3,800 sqm. [40,903 sq.ft.] subterranean unit at taikoo li, a mixed-use downtown complex next to the ancient daci temple. shoppers descend by way of a lengthy escalator, and immediately find themselves in a rather spectacular environment. mimicking the lay-out above ground, the store maintains an open-plan design by chu chih-kang. the shenzhen-based taiwanese architect added to the store's 'national identity' by drawing inspiration from xuanzang, a monk, scholar, and avid traveller from the tang dynasty. extrapolating matters from there, kang aimed to design an equivalent to a sutra depository, a traditional storage space for all kinds of knowledge, such as books, letters, and of course, sutras.

this has resulted in two spaces, each with a distinct look and feel. the first space, eight meters in height and impressively voluminous, is dotted by no less than 37 colossal columns that support a concrete canopy adorned by an abundance of utility pipes. two storeys of wooden shelves, laden with thousands and thousands of books, line the walls, paired with a system of intersecting walkways. and while fang suo commune's store concept is firmly anchored by books, it's playfully mixed with an edited range of lifestyle goods from across the planet, and even includes flowers. the ground floor features a number of sizeable displays that showcase this merchandise, in addition to a separate section dedicated to women's apparel.

the second space has an entirely different setting. less voluminous, arched and supported by one row of concrete columns, it's dotted with kiosk-like structures, laden with even more lifestyle goods and homewares. and it's here where a stylish café is situated where shoppers can recharge before splurging some more. fang suo commune has accelerated its expansion, adding new stores in some of china's biggest cities. the soft opening of a branch in chongqing has just taken place, and additional flagship stores are planned for qingdao later this year and shanghai in 2017. chengdu location: taikoo li, 8 zhong shamao jie [jinjiang].

© chu chih-kang space design