LocationMelbourne VIC, Australia
CollaboratorsMatthew Bird, Charity Edwards, Harry Evans
Text description provided by the architects. Napoleon Perdis Chapel is a new flagship for cosmetics icon Napoleon Perdis located on Chapel Street, South Yarra in Melbourne. Declining high street retail precincts and expansion of online shopping create an uncertain time for retail projects. The client therefore desired a new approach to retail environments supporting their brand identity makeover. Provocatively, the client asked for a pansexual series of spaces to arouse and challenge customers.
The project manifests as a series of layered thresholds and kaleidascoping experiences:
- Lush Entry Parlor: a double-height space recalling Italian Pop Razionalismo and featuring a seeming perilously-suspended welded egg dressed in dirty blonde hair wigs as reference to both Barbarella and Frankenstein.
- Cinematic Cosmetics: Bygone-era Hollywood silver screen reinterpreted with custom makeup stations, striking searchlights and corrugated silver walls evoking the Aussie backyard shed.
- Brutalist Bus Shelters: Inhabitable display units recalling Soviet-era modernist concrete follies.
- Cosmic Greco Antiquity: The Acropolis, reinterpreted. Colonnade and apex meets Space Odyssey, abstracted into a series of display units and lifestyle experiences.
- Mojave Academy: Upstairs cosmetics academy as staged mix of desert landscape, case-study desert modernism and peyote cacti.
The project recognises that retail cosmetics and lifestyle consumption paradoxically explores complex ideas of identity, the ‘masks’ that we assume and moments of transformation. The project thus emerges out of personal references dear to both the client and practitioner, with an organisational framework of Hollywood silver screen glamour – the ultimate metaphor of celebrity culture and temporary character.
The interior advances a practice that is dedicated to wish fulfillment, material exploration and an unashamed reveal of exotic theatricality present in day-to-day life.
Hardware store chic with exposed fixings and workshop mechanics also remind us that the creation of beauty is as much mad scientist laboratory as it is stage prop, costume and lighting effect.
Napoleon Perdis believes in the retail experience as an utopian ideal – ‘a Versailles-like palace of pleasure for all in the court to enjoy’. This project shamelessly supplies the client with a high street Hall of Mirrors by way of suburban DIY stores. Immersive theatre and sensation privilege a sense of performance and the me-me-me that wish fulfillment and teenage makeovers demand.
The shop as event and viral sensation extends the project into the hands of visitors and wider social networks. Hashtagging the Barbarella egg across multiple platforms means that a low-cost fitout can travel the world, pushing the interior experience beyond the confines of leasing arrangements and a tight budget.
It is intriguing to consider the material experimentation, sustainable content or nontraditional delivery strategies of this project, but this interior truly innovates with a consideration of the emotional connection between client, practitioner and space – that is, how a provocative, hilarious and freewheeling relationship can interrogate and invigorate retail interior practice and create spatial JOY for all involved.
Upcycling, refashioning and big box hardware DIY strategies are privileged and at all times celebrated with equal luxury and attention to sensation as typically specified glamour retail details. As such, silver screen references to glamorous shimmer and lush screening have been slyly constructed through DIY experimentation using roof sheet, metal chains, and off-the-shelf curtain tracks.
Prefabricated makeup stations have been re-used and customised rather built anew, and low-cost shop fittings pimped beyond recognition to create a cosmic homage to antiquity and classical iconography. Existing lighting has also been maintained throughout the space, with only minor low-energy additions for theatrical effect.
Napoleon Perdis Chapel also responds to the socio-economics of declining high street culture, often at the expense of burgeoning online retail. The creation instead of immersive retail theatre that charms, delights and lovingly provokes the consumer requires what critic and urban instigator Mimi Zeiger calls ‘the skill of the hustler’ in the face of a downturn market – in this instance, seducing individuals away from their isolating technology with the beguiling promise of shared retail experience set upon a public stage.