Playing With The Familiar
Malaysia’s Selangor region has a long history of association with tin, a material that contributed significantly to the building of the country’s economy in the nineteenth century. Tin’s abundance over the centuries has seen it transformed into humble and versatile corrugated roofing sheets that are now ubiquitous in the Malaysian urban environment.
“These corrugated sheets have arguably become part of the vernacular architecture vocabulary,” says Selwyn Low, a Director at Farm, noting how tin has given way to metal alloys today. “They’re frequently seen in large cities and kampungs, along highways and side streets, from homes to markets, hawker stalls and factories.”
And now, corrugated metal sheeting defines Aesop’s new store at 1Utama shopping centre in Petaling Jaya. In a sensitive and focused mode of exploration familiar to Aesop’s retail environments the world over, Farm has investigated how corrugated roofing sheet can be adapted in inventive ways without losing its character and materiality, while forging an intimate and detail-oriented experience for customers.
Material expression takes the leading role in the store interior, being presented in two modes: a vertical, planar expression that celebrates the undulating surface of the material; and a horizontal stacked crosssectional expression, celebrating the material’s edge profile and mass.
In the first instance, corrugated sheets have been used as vertical formwork for the casting of concrete walls. Depth becomes apparent through the contrast of light and shadow across the undulations, and is played up through the expression of wall thickness via cut-away zones for the corner entry and the window display. As a counterpoint to these undulating surfaces, service counters are expressed as simple blocks of concrete with straight edges.
The second mode of material expression – the horizontal expression – communicates density. Says Low, “The objective was to reveal a shimmering and often unseen perspective of roofing sheet: the profile edge. By varying the width and thickness of the stacks, a range of elements can be created.” These include slim product display shelves, a sturdy plinth for seating, and weighty platforms for visual merchandising. “The tactility of the corrugated sheets is literally presented through another angle, reinterpreted and appreciated anew,” says Low.
The result is a sense of the strangely familiar – a novel recasting of something ubiquitous such that it takes on a new expressive potential. It’s the everyday as art form and experience. Photo by Studio Periphery.