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Unexpected Textural Contrasts: Aesop’s Lyon Store by Nicolas Schuybroek Architects

Aesop Lyon Place de la République / Nicolas Schuybroek Architects

Romain Laprade

Since its establishment in 1987, Aesop, the renowned Australian skincare brand, has gained recognition not only for the exceptional quality of its products but also for its distinctive approach to retail design. Instead of replicating a uniform brand aesthetic across its global stores, Aesop has chosen to embrace a “locally relevant design vocabulary,” ensuring that each space pays homage to the local community, culture, and history.

Aesop Lyon Place de la République / Nicolas Schuybroek Architects

What sets Aesop’s retail design apart, however, is the seamless integration of the brand’s identity into these site-specific interventions. Instantly recognizable as Aesop stores, they go beyond the iconic apothecary-style bottles and black and white label packaging. A prime example of this is the newly unveiled Aesop Lyon Place de la République, the brand’s second signature store in Lyon, France. In collaboration with Belgian studio Nicolas Schuybroek Architects, the store’s sleek modernity harmoniously blends with the soulful craftsmanship, drawing inspiration from the city’s urban fabric and the historic building it calls home.

Aesop Lyon Place de la République / Nicolas Schuybroek Architects

The design of the store draws inspiration from the city itself and the architectural structure of the site. The juxtaposition of the historical surroundings and the sleek exterior creates an intriguing contrast with the modern and minimalist interior. The design team has carefully preserved elements of the store’s past while incorporating contemporary materials to introduce unexpected textures.

Aesop Lyon Place de la République / Nicolas Schuybroek Architects

One notable feature is the high ceiling, covered in untouched fire-resistant foam, resembling a cloud-like mass. This unique choice is rarely seen in retail settings but serves both practical and aesthetic purposes, paying homage to the building’s history.

Aesop Lyon Place de la République / Nicolas Schuybroek Architects

Below, the room is adorned with wool felt, providing a soft and sound-absorbing surface that adds warmth and a sense of homeliness to the otherwise cool-toned space. Over time, these walls will naturally acquire slight scratches, blemishes, and other marks, reflecting the passage of time and adding character to the store.

Aesop Lyon Place de la République / Nicolas Schuybroek Architects

To further capture the essence of Lyon, the store incorporates freestanding elements reminiscent of the city’s numerous fountains. These include a small sink for intimate consultations, wood-veneered counters, and a large central basin wrapped in local tin. As the years go by, the tin will develop a distinctive patina, adding to the unique charm of the store. Aesop Lyon Place de la République is not just a store; it is a harmonious blend of history, modernity, and the spirit of Lyon itself.