Rene Gonzalez wowed us with his first Alchemist boutique, on the fifth floor of a raw-concrete parking garage. Now, the firm has created a second shop on the ground floor that’s vibrant, playful and laid back.
When owners Roma Cohen and Erika Sussman first opted to situate one of their Alchemist boutiques inside the Lincoln Road parking garage designed by Herzog & de Meuron, it seemed like something of a dare. Would the unorthodox location itself draw shoppers to the glass box in the sky? The answer, of course, was a resounding yes.
But the store’s architectural and interior design – by Rene Gonzalez Architect – went beyond the initial surprise, to deliver an exceptional shopping experience. Tucked into the fifth floor of the concrete lot, the shop was animated by 44 kinetic mirrors that followed browsers around like an entourage. The interior was so unexpected and forward-looking, it won an AZ Award in 2012.
Now, Gonzalez has designed the Alchemist’s concept store on the first floor of the same structure. This interior has a decidedly more relaxed feel than the ultra-minimalist main store above. In the centre of the space, a sculptural neon-yellow bench invites lounging, but the interior’s main feature is the softness rendered by its melamine foam surfaces: the staggered, saw-tooth walls have cut-out shelves and colour-changing LED bands, while the ceiling is carved away in gashes, allowing light to burst through.
The store’s rear section has a more natural feel, with wood floors and exposed wood beams in an energetic criss-cross pattern. Even these are lent a funky vibe by mirrored ceilings and a video installation by artist Paris Kain that beams images of tropical locales – sunsets and oceans. Like a Chrome Hearts bangle matched to a Balenciaga dress, the shop’s relaxed atmosphere is the perfect complement to the more rarified experience upstairs.