James Gardner – inside Shigeru Ban’s Camper

Japanese traditions evident in Soho shoe store design

New York /
Jun.June 15, 2012 05:30 PM

One of the best things to happen to Soho in recent years is the opening of a dashing shoe boutique from the Spanish shoe company Camper. When you learn that its creator was none other than Shigeru Ban, the esteemed Japanese architect, it will come as no surprise that the results are as distinguished as they are. Ban is the architect behind the Nomadic Museum, which occupied the far West Side of Manhattan for several months back in 2005; that museum was more than two blocks long and propped up by cardboard pylons. More recently Ban designed the stylish, if gimmicky, Metal Shutter Houses at 524 West 19th Street.

The new Camper boutique, which was officially unveiled in May, is in the heart of Soho’s design area. It’s a 1200-square foot-structure that is largely the reconception of a pre-existent building that had long lain dormant but had landmark status. Though it would have been easy to overlook that earlier building, the same cannot be said for the eye-catching structure that supplanted it.

The Camper store is clad in sterling white, each bay defined by a square pillar that recalls the Japanese traditions from which this architect emerges. These are tastefully accented with black bases and diminutive black diamonds above the entrances. The structure is crowned with a hollowed out wooden lean-to roof — once again invoking Japanese style.

The inside is as satisfying as the exterior. In fair weather, the window-doors seem to disappear, creating a sense of being outdoors. The interior space is a blast of red over white — the colors of the Japanese flag. From one angle, through an optical illusion, the space looks like a giant wall with the name Camper emblazoned across it. From another angle, ingeniously, the same wall revealed all of the shoes on sale. The interplay of white and red plays out on the floor, as well, where sharp thin red diagonals sweep across a white field in a movement replayed on the ceilings.

This new boutique is truly a distinguished addition to the neighborhood.


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