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biophilic travels: an intriguing cave-like retail space

in biophilic travels

Designing retail spaces is an occasion to make a statement. Not just any statement though…

The biggest element that retail spaces lack from a biophilic design perspective is belonging to place, that relationship between a space and its surroundings.

In this Biophilic Travels episode we’re visiting a store that incorporates a sense of place while offering an overall biophilic experience to guests.

View of the store counter behind the curved wall.
Credit: Aesop – Ph: Rafael Gamo

sense of place

Aesop North Bridge is located in Chicago, a very urban area. Inspired by the natural identity of the surroundings, the design of this store references a frosted scenery, paying homage to the cold winters that characterize the area.

Cold metal, smooth concrete, and a rough stone-like finish create a glacial monochrome ambiance that recalls the starkness of ice with a combination of texture and surface temperatures. Real stone blocks lay casually here and there, as they would in a natural environment. The overall minimal and monochrome ambiance acts as a neutral-enough backdrop for the products to be what catches the attention. At the same time, the rich and tactile design is far from feeling bland (the main risk of monochrome spaces).

View of the products standing out againsts the monochrome gray wall.
Credit: Aesop – Ph: Rafael Gamo
View of the washbasin area at the back of the store.
Credit: Aesop – Ph: Rafael Gamo
Close-up view of the washbasin area at the back of the store.
Credit: Aesop – Ph: Rafael Gamo

an intriguing experience

If textures and materials recreate a frosted ambiance, shapes are what guide movement in the space. Upon entering the store, the eye moves around to take in the rich stone-like walls, whose texture is further highlighted by a wall-washer lighting effect. Then it goes up, attracted by a majestic ceiling height that sits in between breathtaking and somehow humbling.

Curved walls suggest a direction, inviting guests to explore the space. The stone-like wall finish (which really is sprayed-in-place recycled paper fibre) makes the cave-like feeling even more real, contributing to the experience.

View of store entrance.
Credit: Aesop – Ph: Rafael Gamo
View of the curved wall leading guests to explore the space.
Credit: Aesop – Ph: Rafael Gamo
View of the washbasin area, hidden behind curved walls.
Credit: Aesop – Ph: Rafael Gamo

In its simplicity, this design achieves material richness, a compelling experience for guests, and a connection with its local surroundings. A combination of biophilic features that brings retail design to a whole new level.

Design: Aesop

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