Aesop’s second store in Taipei exploits subtle contrasts to explore the tension between nature and urban environments. Conceived in partnership with Hong Kong-based firm Mlkk Studio, the new Aesop Daan store occupies a corner site in a tranquil street, and draws inspiration from the ubiquitous ceramic tiles seen on the city’s storefronts, apartment buildings and pavements. 

 Aesop Daan, Taipei, Taiwan / Mlkk Studio

The design embraces the peculiarities, cracks and imperfections that develop over time to create a record of a changing environment. Matte alabaster tiles extend from the building façade to the ground-floor interior, effecting a gentle continuation of the streetscape; while local plants provide a verdant accent to the achromatic palette. 

 Aesop Daan, Taipei, Taiwan / Mlkk Studio

The tiles’ orderly geometry is offset by the fluid shapes of the furniture. A handful of surfaces have been left exposed to reveal the mortar; rather than a sense of the unfinished, it gestures to the meticulous craftsmanship typically concealed beneath tilework.

“The smooth cement surface of the organic furniture requires exceptional craftsmanship to create,” explained the studio. “Each is first milled into a rough shape, and then the cement layer is applied by the local master and handcrafted to a smooth geometry before the cement is dry and then further sanded to smooth.”

 Aesop Daan, Taipei, Taiwan / Mlkk Studio

“Often as an architect, we are being asked to design something to stay timeless and near perfection, so the outcome always looks new and fresh. However, in the commercial world and particularly in Asia, time is relatively short. In every few years, the brand or the landlord often ask to relocate the store or make a new one,” said the studio. “Our question is whether we can embrace changes and appreciate the transformation, refreshing the store’s appearance in a subtle and prolonged manner without a drastic and abrupt renewal.”