Chicago architecture practice MANA has teamed up with skateboarder Scott Oster to design a mirrored skate ramp in the atrium of Le Bon Marché department store in Paris. The installation, called ‘Le Cube’, was an engaging and exciting project for shoppers and passersby. Spectators were encouraged to approach and take photos in its reflection, as well as watch the skaters perform from a multitude of angles and levels.
From the first floor, an onlooker could see directly into and through the full-pipe, intimately at eye level with the elevated performer. The reflections of the interior retail space created the illusion that the full-pipe was a cylindrical void suspended within the open interior courtyard of the store.
Although it did not feature a specific brand it created an extraction to the surrounding merchandise and exhibitions. Acting as centerpiece of the store’s “Los Angeles Rive Gauche” exhibit, the installation did not merely showcase the city’s fashion and beauty products, but more so the city’s underlying influences.
Le Cube was a nod to street culture. Local skaters were given a platform to have fun and perform, and they did not disappoint. Le Cube’s spotlights and speakers highlighted their abilities. For Scott Oster, Le Cube was a passion project, one that drew upon his experience as a designer and professional skater. For John Manaves AIA and MANA architects, it was an opportunity to focus on detailing and the process of fabrication. The smallest of elements were considered in the design and ultimately realized by the Le Bon Marché team.
Upon inspection, one would have a difficult time locating the access door in the base, the safety wires protecting the ramp openings or the ramp’s hatch door were all carefully concealed. Particular time was spent on providing sleek and intentional seams between panels, as well as efficient use of structure by the Endrestudio engineering team.
Le Cube acted as a thought-provoking intersection between sport and sculptural art. When a performance was occurring inside, the atmosphere was dynamic and stimulating. When it was not being activated, Le Cube sat quietly, luminously reflecting the architecture of its surroundings—warm lights, decorative iron handrails, and the famous crossing escalators of Le Bon Marché.
In summary, Le Cube was conscious of its context, meticulously detailed, and engaged with the public in a fun and exciting way. Le Cube made a statement about how design can rethink and reposition the future of retail and its interiors.