The shop presents our attempt to form a retail space into a lattice enclosure, which is generated through the assemblage of a single module – a 72 degree parallelogram.  When a 72 degree parallelogram pairs with a 36 degree parallelogram and duplicates randomly, the two shapes are able to form a non--repeating pattern called Penrose Tiling.  Penrose Tiling was the key iconic design feature since the first Samuel Kung Store, and has been taken as the brand icon since then.

The History

This is the second shop of Samuel Kung, a prominent figure in contemporary jade jewelry.  In 2005, we designed the first Samuel Kung shop with the use of Penrose tiling as an individual graphic surface.  Each surface is formed by a different design approach: etching, laser-cutting, carving-out, printing, weaving and parquet tiling and the resulting design is rendered as an installation of Penrose with different scale and materiality.

 The second shop came with a different story. The project brief suggested that the design was to be a joint effort with the participation of an artist who is specialized in floor painting, and that the artwork may be installed in a much later stage after the interior works is completed.   We believe that the less obtrusion on the floor the stronger the impact of the floor painting. Taking into account of the tight working schedule and the difficulty of phasing of works altogether, we made a brutal yet logical design strategy: the interior should be designed to leave the ground clear.  That said, the canvas on the floor is made as big as possible, and the rest of the design is all about wall and ceiling.

 The Tactics

We further set up a set of parameters for the design to emerge:

  1. As the shop space has a long glass shopfront facing the sun-filled atrium, the peripheral wall behind, if any, should act as a lattice to screen off the light for an appropriate ambiance for the jewel display;
  2. The showcases should be integrated with the wall and all should be designed in one language to minimize the distraction;
  3. Wall and ceiling should be integrated as one piece for highest contrast of the future artwork;
  4. Other than the Penrose Tiling of which is made the brand icon since the first shop, no other new element should be added to the new design for the sake of clarity. 

From here, we revisited the Penrose logic and studied its innate properties for future design transformation:

The 3D Penrose

Penrose tiling can be laid flat with the random combination of 36 degree and 72 degree parallelograms.  Yet, taking only either one of the shapes for repetition can only achieve a three-dimensional entity like a folded paper.  The inward and outward folds add rigidity to the surface.  Besides, the same parallelogram shape can resemble distorted cubic volume.  Combining these two factors results in a folded surface with volumes.  This property fits our idea to generate an integrated wall system with built-in showcases. 

All the showcases are objects formed by the same 72 degree modules and are able to combine to achieve bigger and wider showcases. These tilted boxes fit perfectly to the rigid Penrose skin wall and fixed together as part of the integrated skin.

 All the modular planes employed in the project are perforated with a miniature Penrose pattern to create a see-through effect.  The planes are made of painted mild steel panels and come in 3 different thicknesses – 6mm, 3mm and 1.5mm depending on the design and structural requirement.  The solid walls behind the Penrose skin are covered with tinted mirror to create a deep and illusionary reflection.

The Lattice Enclosure

The shop itself is shaped into a simple rectangular space. Yet the complex Penrose skin and the controversial approach of skin as structure gives the whole an impression of novelty.  The metal lattice enclosure with extravagant Penrose cutouts becomes a geometrical cavern in the background. Contrast between the mystical darkness of the space and the shimmered brightness of the gem is deliberately intensified.  Having dressed in black entirely, the dominant illumination comes from the glowing voids of the showcases and supported by the screened ambient lights penetrated from the atrium outside. Reducing the spot lighting to a minimum further promotes the dramatic effect. `In the everyday context of shopping, the projects creates a small world on its own, all made by a piece of negative sculpture where function and art merges.