Haining is a water-bred city about 100 km to the southwest of Shanghai and 60km east of Hangzhou. Mostly known for its leather products and textiles, the city is also famous for its shadow puppetry, the art of storytelling with light and shadow that gradually evolved into cinematography. Given a street corner site and the mixed program of a retail store with a café, Lukstudio explores the idea of theatre to put the spotlight on the fashion platform of Dear So Cute.
Instilling a sense of performance in the visitors, the shopping activities are staged as a spectacle while the café area hosts the sitting audience. Three boxes cladded with steel and polycarbonate panels are placed on the elevated platform, in manner of a theatre set. Apart from hiding the existing columns, these boxes break down the original open floor into smaller rooms for a more human-scale experience.
Windows to frame views of interest and doorways that provide a clear path of circulation engage shoppers or café-goers to wander and discover. The “watch and be watched” setting blurs the distinction between performers and audience. Behind the boxes are the changing rooms on the highest platform. With the floor to ceiling mirrors and a trail of pink velvet curtains at this mini-stage, trying on new treasures takes on an exhibitionist twist.
A clean and bright palette is being used to create a neutral backdrop for the on-going displays or activities to take the spotlight. The terraced stage is cast-in-place with white terrazzo, shaping planters and seating while designating areas for display and circulation. Two contrasting effects have been achieved by lighting pink acrylic panels behind the polycarbonate walls. On the outside, the subtle hues add warmth to the austere space; on the inside, the intense lights paint the entire room in pink and add to the intimate atmosphere. Inspired by the backstage rigging system, the display hangers, mirrors, and menu boards can be adjusted in heights with a pulley-counterweight cabling mechanism.
A variety of seating are designed to attract different café-loungers: casual tables along the façade, a bar with a view under the tilt-up window, a common table for bigger group and even a sunken area evoking a swimming pool. Clear glazing has been used to ensure unobstructed views to the interior activities, inviting others to enter and participate in the “scenes”. By infusing the experience of an immersive theatre into the Dear So Cute store in Haining, Lukstudio experiments how commercial activities can bring people together and contribute to a better public realm.