birmingham: harvey nichols store renewal

© harvey nichols

although london is by far the u.k.'s most prominent shopping destination in terms of size and variety, there are noteworthy pockets elsewhere that would appeal to a discerning international clientele. as the country's third largest metropolitan area, birmingham has always had the potential for an expanded high-end retail portfolio. now that things are looking brighter, luxury retailer harvey nichols seized the opportunity, and picked the city to introduce its renewed store formula there. an anchor tenant at the mailbox, an upscale mall in full redevelopment mode and situated just outside the downtown area, it occupies a 45,000 sq.ft. [4,181 sqm.] spread over the ground floor and a mezzanine level.

the renewed interior, designed by london-based agency virgile + partners, is actually conceptualized as a blueprint for all future harvey nichols stores. the focus of the design was to create engaging, versatile, and last but not least, luxurious settings that match the savviness and dynamic of today's shoppers. this has been translated into intentional juxtapositions of materials, furnishings, objects, and an infusion of hi-tech, all below a ceiling covered in shiny metal panels. when entering the store, shoppers walk through an immersive 12-metre long tunnel entrance, featuring a cutting-edge digital art installation that signals the contemporary atmosphere inside.

it's right here where the store's concierge team is readily available with services, such as coat check and valet parking, in a contrasting, somewhat theatrical setting with an oversized baroque crystal chandelier. the store is largely set across one floor with an open plan and lofty dimensions that add up to a sense of spaciousness. as said, the design is eclectic, but it shows a considered layering at the same time. a route has been created through the use of a soft white marble with characteristic grey and terracotta veining, offset by the grey concrete floor tiles around the perimeter of the space.

at the core of the store a beauty department is situated, featuring counters made from concrete with corian tops. the men's and women's apparel collections, as well as accessories and shoes are presented in the perimeter. but don't expect traditional display set-ups. the coveted merchandise is paired with adventurous installations made from a variety of often unexpected materials. anticipating the power shopper demographic, harvey nichols is dotted with stylish lounges where to sit back and recharge for another shopping spree. towards the back of the store, there is a ‘pod’, split in two levels, that dominates the space.

the architectural forms of the pod are sculptural and soft, the marble floor penetrating into the area where beauty services and a hair salon are on offer. an internal staircase leads to the mezzanine level, offering views of the store and creating no less than seven private beauty treatment rooms. a restaurant + cocktail bar seamlessly extends the shopping experience into an ultimate culinary one, and obviously with a similarly stylish setting. open all day, it features an open kitchen, a private space for parties, a special wine area with a wine tasting bar, and last but not least, a well-stocked foodmarket. location: the mailbox, 65 wharfside street [ladywood].

© harvey nichols

tokyo: passage in the air (1975-1993)

© keiichi tanaami / courtesy of the artist and nanzuka - exhibition setting

nothing short of an icon in japanese contemporary art, keiichi tanaami [1936] has been frantically active in graphic design, illustration, and fine arts since the 1960s, and he has established quite a reputation for seeking new ways to get his creative message across. to this very day he has appropriated the vast design technique of ‘compilation’ as he takes on experimental approaches in challenging themes. the artist's works created between the late 1970s to the 1980s could be described as a departure from the american pop-style he had developed earlier. during this period he had strengthened his interests towards concerns of mysticism and symbolism, and had produced an array of works in forms of wooden sculptures, paintings, and prints. what makes tanaami's work so intriguing is the hybrid and dynamic blend of references he uses, ranging from mere observations, to childhood memories and also a range of elements from abroad. nanzuka gallery in tokyo currently hosts passage in the air (1975-1993), the first chapter of an elaborate retrospective exhibition which puts tanaami's diverse creative output between the late 1970s and the early 1990s in a well-deserved spotlight [on through aug 8]. location: shibuya ibis building, 2-17-3-b1 shibuya [shibuya].

© keiichi tanaami / courtesy of the artist and nanzuka - tokiwa-matsu [1986] silk screen print on paper and ring and pole [1980] - wood, lacquer