Natural is Best, Xiqu Centre
Natural is Best 自然派, Xiqu Centre Store, West Kowloon
Scope: Full Scope Design
Natural is Best is an established snack food retailer with dozens of stores located throughout Hong Kong and China. Metagram was engaged to design their flagship feature store located in the prominent West Kowloon Xiqu Centre for Chinese Opera.
Metagram drew inspiration from traditional Chinese Opera sets, and added a contemporary twist in keeping with the art direction that the Xiqu Centre Cultural Team had set for its outlook.
Throughout the design are Chinese inspired detailing, from the shelves’ various forms and lattice detailing which frame various features in the store. The bright colours of deep red and sky blue were inspired by colour symbolism in Chinese Opera. Characters would be adorned in intricate and brightly coloured costumes and makeup. The colours would provide symbolic cues to the character’s role and purpose in each story.
From outside the store, visitors are addressed by a distinct central axis. The axis is critical to the design, experientially drawing visitors into the store and architecturally providing a reference to arrange an otherwise highly irregular space. The design fundamentally creates a theatrical experience for visitors. Zones along the axis are divided by a series of ‘moon gates’ - a traditional architectural element used in Chinese gardens - each signifying dramatic progression into a distinct new space.
The entry space acts as a grand lobby, drawing visitors through the narrow site-entry into the larger internal store. Visitors are treated to a cloud-like banket of lanterns filling the entire vestibule, while symmetrical floor to ceiling curved shelves add grandeur to the space. This entry space is oriented toward a central display, featuring the store’s logo and a cultural arrangement of Chinese style chests - a reference to costume chests which traditionally contain the closet of Chinese Opera performers.
After passing through the second moongate, visitors find themselves in the main space of the store. Framed in the moongate is a striking hanging sculpture of celebrated Chinese Opera artists 譚穎倫 (Alan Tam) and 杜詠心 (Christie To) gently floating above an illuminated platform.
The most striking architectural feature in the main space is a series of layered red drapes pulled away from the central axis. Following the axis visually to the back of the store, as if like a stage, is the main feature of the design - a stunning artwork of 瓊花女 (King Fa Lui) a current and also celebrated Chinese Opera artist, framed and illuminated in a bold black circular frame, and protected behind mesmerizing coloured gradient glass.
Inside this main space, visitors can browse the store's many products in a landscape of articulated product displays while enjoying the artistic installations and pausing at the central communal bench to enjoy a snack and perhaps to recharge before proceeding into a performance in the Xiqu Centre above.
Photography by Steven Ko