SKP-S spans over an entire floor (4F) of the 20-storey Xi’an department store previously unveiled in 2018. The brand sets itself apart from the recognisable signature curve and architectural vocabulary of the SKP house style. This is the second instalment of the immersive experience of SKP-S, the first was much lauded as a breakthrough in retail inviting us to meet another dimension in fashion, lifestyle and design at its standalone launch in Beijing in 2019.

Studio Name: Sybarite
Design Team: Sybarite
Area: 20,000 m2 (overall 250,000)
Year: 2016-2022
Location: Xi’an, China
Photography Credits: Boris Shiu
Other Credits: N.A.

SKP-S Xi'an by Sybarite - Sheet1
©Boris Shiu

Tying in with its predecessor, SKP-S Xi’an is a dream-like experiential retail journey through space and time – an inspired environment catapulting the customer beyond reality and showcasing an intriguing and elevated mix of luxury lifestyle, fashion and beauty. This is enhanced by robotic performance art in the form of animals who seek to establish that natural species can be replicated after the world falls apart.

SKP-S Xi'an by Sybarite - Sheet3
©Boris Shiu

In 2019 SKP-S Beijing told the story of humans emigrating to Mars and building a life there. For Xi’an in 2022, we are taken back to the creation and the origin of the world and a return to Earth. In ancient Greek mythology, Orinomo created the sky and the sea with his hands. In Chinese mythology, the mother goddess Nuwa used clay to create mankind. The world of SKP-S in Xi’an is a metaphor for this by way of the ‘Last Earthling’ – a girl who is reborn and returns to the earth and her nostalgic discovery through memory. The ‘rebirth journey’ from Mars to the Earth homeland is represented in an environment which is both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time – it takes place N years later and the Earth has become a ruin due to human over-invention.

SKP-S Xi'an by Sybarite - Sheet5
©Boris Shiu

The significance of SKP-S Xi’an is that it perfectly captures the times we are living in. During 2020-2021 we have been taken hold of by an epidemic amounting to drastic changes to our lifestyle and outlook. Themes and symbols of rebirth, regeneration, inspiration, dreaming, the importance of the future and readdressing consumption in another dimension are all brought to life here.

Each element of the floor, which expands over both buildings, has been designed by Sybarite to reiterate the narrative. Through every touchpoint and vista: from floors to ceilings, walls and columns to the logo bands and wayfinding – the world of SKP-S is the carefully curated framework to which the brands can plug in and playfully contrast their image.

SKP-S Xi'an by Sybarite - Sheet
©Boris Shiu

A clean departure from the other 19 floors of this store, the predominantly dimly lit interior conjures a powerful sense of the unknown which is echoed in shape, form, texture, and tone. A dark technical shell with suspended circular discs, terrazzo flooring and backlit columns weave together to bring rhythm and uniformity and build momentum.

Within the wider space the customer is invited to navigate the 60 metre Time Tunnel, a crushed hexagon shape offering an alluring voyage that ascends towards ten branded spaces and a future full of vitality and hope. The dynamic structure slowly unfolds and with it a vibrant ‘natural’ landscape emerges – it is a nexus for travel from Space to Earth delivered through a clever game of mirrors which captivates the customer in an ever-evolving story.

SKP-S Xi'an by Sybarite - Sheet8
©Boris Shiu

Immersion is from the west at The Sky Port: the energetic assembly line where satellites are in a state of repair, optimism is in the air, recycling and reconstruction are in process, cranes move heavy components. It will be moments before these satellites will be sent back into the atmosphere on their new expeditions. Customers grasp the transience of this fleeting instant, all the while they catch a subtle glimpse of what lies ahead through the distorted reflections. Inside the dichroic glass tunnel, there is an enhanced perspective in play with a purposefully pared back palette where geometry and optical illusion serve to draw and channel people through from anticipation to crescendo.

In contrast, as you head to the east into The Terra through the nexus, the abstract allure of a concave circular disc sculpture awaits. Akin to a massive inverse reflector, this was inspired by solar and wind panels. A polished mirrored surface which is suspended and rotated to 45 degrees and set against a cracked, scorched and desolate backdrop signifying red earthly desert. This represents a contemplative counterpoint to the chaos of the start of this experience.

©Boris Shiu

Xi’an was previously known for its fashion significance and status as an ancient capital of the thirteen dynasties. Historically, Chang’an was once the political, economical and cultural centre of the country, as well as the eastern end of the trade route connecting China with Central Asia and more distant countries.

Author

Rethinking The Future (RTF) is a Global Platform for Architecture and Design. RTF through more than 100 countries around the world provides an interactive platform of highest standard acknowledging the projects among creative and influential industry professionals.

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