The Sanctuary in Boston, designed by Montreal creative agency Sid Lee, is a near-religious experience for sneakerheads.
As partners, Sid Lee and Adidas go way back. Not as far back as Run D.M.C.’s hip hop hit My Adidas (released in 1986). Rather, since partnering in 2008, Sid Lee has produced television ads for Adidas, thrown house parties and launched campaigns that featured such stars as Derrick Rose and Katy Perry. The Montreal creative agency has certainly learned how to sell shell-toed shoes and tri-stripes.
Sid Lee’s latest work with the German footwear giant, which it executed in tandem with Sid Lee Architecture, is now open in Boston. It’s an Adidas collaboration with streetwear boutique CNCPTS – and it’s a retail space that’s more like a temple.
Called The Sanctuary, Sid Lee’s senior VP Elana Gorbatyuk says the boutique’s retail experience is meant to evoke sense of religious awe. Its 1,200-square-foot location on Newbury Street caters to high-end sneaker obsessives that also appreciate CNCPTS’s coveted streetwear. “We wanted the store to be special, especially for fans of limited editions who have seen it all.”
The arched entrance features glass doors bearing a pattern that interlocks both brands. To our eyes, it resembles a confessional booth screen.
Once inside, customers enter what Sid Lee calls the “liberation tunnel chamber,” where, surrounded by raw brick and concrete, the sneakers are elevated on mirrored podiums.
As shoppers advance through the main corridor, modular thresholds reveal themselves to invoke a sense of discovery. Shoes, T-shirts and other merchandise becomes more visible as one venture further into the store.
The interior features subtle metal fasteners for mounting sneakers on the walls, and screens fill brick archways, adding a contemporary touch to the building’s original bones. Instead of the usual vitrines, shoes on display at the centre of the space are presented on glass and mirror sculptures by Toronto-Santiago artist Jordan Söderberg Mills. The artful podiums allow for the sneakers to be viewed from various angles.
The journey ends with the fitting rooms. Floor-to-ceiling mirrors contrast exposed brick walls, and coloured fluorescent lighting gives them a nocturnal, dream-like quality. It’s a setting that feels less like a church, more like a Weeknd video – and that’s not a bad thing.