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Azure - - CONTENTS - WORDS _Ellen Himel­farb PHO­TO­GRAPHS _Paola Pansini

For its lat­est Ae­sop in­te­rior, Snøhetta turns to rose-hued English clay

Lo­cated off King’s Road in Lon­don’s af­flu­ent Chelsea dis­trict, Duke of York Square was al­ways go­ing to at­tract top re­tail­ers. To en­tice prospec­tive ten­ants even more, the devel­op­ers who re­pur­posed the Ge­or­gian-era plaza in the early 2000s of­fered a range of real es­tate op­tions, from listed his­toric build­ings to a for­mer school gym with a vaulted ceil­ing and orig­i­nal arched win­dows. Ae­sop, how­ever, wanted more. When it set its sights on the square, the bou­tique Aus­tralian skin-care brand, known for its cus­tom­ized, ex­pe­ri­en­tial in­te­ri­ors, de­cided to push the en­ve­lope. To cre­ate what is now its largest shop in Great Bri­tain, Ae­sop turned to Snøhetta, the Nor­we­gian firm re­spon­si­ble for at least half a dozen of the chain’s global flag­ships. The lead ar­chi­tects, Peter Gir­gis and Gaute Si­mon­sen, aimed for a “time­less” at­mos­phere that is “pure and hon­est.” One of their first tasks: de­cid­ing what do with a chal­leng­ing sup­port col­umn at the cen­tre of the 108-square-me­tre space. Rather than ig­nore it, the project team chose to cap­i­tal­ize on the fea­ture, mak­ing it a spring­board for 12 fly­ing but­tresses that cat­a­pult to­ward the sur­round­ing walls. The arches and walls were then coated with nat­u­ral clay from Devon and Corn­wall (na­tive ma­te­ri­als are an­other Ae­sop trade­mark). The clay gives the fea­tures a dusty rose tint that fades to a paler shade at the col­umn’s base. En­cir­cling the col­umn on an ar­ray of slen­der legs is a stain­less-steel sink unit that is edged in fi­bre­glass and boasts mul­ti­ple shal­low basins. In the evening, lights re­cessed in the arches above it project a warm pink glow to passers-by through floor-to-ceil­ing win­dows on two sides of the store. Lin­ing the store’s in­te­rior, ver­ti­cal rows of ul­tra-thin alu­minum shelves hold Ae­sop’s dis­tinc­tive apothe­carystyle bot­tles. In one cor­ner, a trio of cor­duroy easy chairs pro­vides soft perches on which tag-along guests can sit while buy­ers sam­ple the wares. Given its his­toric set­ting, the new store could have stood out in all the wrong ways, but it looks like it has al­ways been there – a point of pride for Gir­gis. The goal of both Ae­sop and Snøhetta, he said, is the cre­ation of “mean­ing­ful places, no mat­ter the scale.” Com­mis­sion ac­com­plished. ae­, sno­

At Ae­sop’s largest store in Bri­tain, a cir­cu­lar stain­less-steel sink sits un­der a canopy of arches con­ceived by Snøhetta.

Slen­der metal legs hold up the sink unit con­structed around a pil­lar in the mid­dle of the store (above). At night, the space emits a soft pink glow (right).

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