It's a jungle out there
Christopher Atamian -- Interior Design, 4/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
When Marithé and François Girbaud decided to open a store in Paris two years ago, the designer couple brought in Agence Mobile, who created a cocoonlike retail space by curving the walls and ceiling with stretch PVC. Collaborating with 1100 Architect on the Girbaud flagship shop in New York, Agence Mobile went one step further: from organic metaphor to organic reality. Principal architect Kristian Gavoille defined the 2,260-square-foot space with natural materials reflecting the experimental and environmentally minded philosophy behind the brand.
The SoHo store, which carries Girbaud's Sporcity couture line, is at once sleek and playful. Working within a single level of a cast-iron building, Gavoille skillfully divided the space into three zones. A light-purple resin ramp, inlaid with silver-painted metal leaves, leads down to the men's collection on the left, where clothing is displayed in stainless-steel frames with translucent resin-based shelving. A cash-wrap desk and display table, both veneered in bleached oak, and a lacquered armoire exhibit the rounded, soft shapes found in nature. Beyond is the larger women's selling floor, where clothing hangs in more stainless-steel frames.
In both the men's and women's areas, white PVC stretches across walls and ceiling in an angular fashion. "Its broken lines resemble cracked eggshell." Gavoille says. Fluorescent recessed light fixtures in the ceiling—which ranges in height from 10 to 15 feet—provide illumination. Six triangular dressing rooms are enclosed by mirrored panels that reflect merchandise as well as the bustle outside.
Toward the rear, slab flooring of red Oregon slate—an allusion to the store's American location—leads to the project's centerpiece. A 17- foot-high, 17-foot-wide vertical garden designed by Patrick Blanc, a researcher at the prestigious Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, this urban jungle comprises more than 250 species of tropical plants. They grow along a structure board made of PVC and nonbiodegradable felt and receive necessary water and nutrients through ingeniously hidden tubes.
The garden concept deftly reveals the company's fascination with and use of innovative shapes and textiles. Says Gavoile, "It represents both sides of Marithé and François—their very down-to-earth side, interested in concrete solutions and materials, as well as their dreamer side and their hopes for an end to conflict between nature and technology." On a more practical note, the garden wall also demarcates the area dedicated to displaying Girbaud's own line of Natural shoes.