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.

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