Excerpt: The architectural project Piaget Flagship Boutique by Neri&Hu Design and Research Office repurposes the retail façade to give it a new monumental presence and civic potency. The store’s architectural presence is enhanced by customised ceramic tiles with subtle blue glazes. These tiles are complemented by a variety of metals and concrete that were also customised to order, and are all woven together like a fine instrument.
“One can say that the city itself is the collective memory of its people, and like memory, it is associated with objects and places. The city is the locus of collective memory. This relationship between the locus and the citizenry then becomes the city’s predominant image, both of architecture and of landscape, and as certain artefacts become part of its memory, new ones emerge.”
[Text as submitted by architect] Neri&Hu’s design for Piaget’s new storefront on Canton Road draws on the wealth of historic architecture in Kowloon, channelling the innate respect for craftsmanship integral to the watchmaking heritage. Bespoke ceramic tiles glazed in nuanced shades of blue lend the store its architectural presence, complemented by an array of customised metals and concrete, all woven together like an exquisite instrument. The project celebrates the storefront as a jewelled urban monument and repurposes the commercial façade to give it a new monumental presence and civic potency.
Neri&Hu approached the project with a desire to respond not only to Piaget’s dedication to craftsmanship and innovation in the field of chorography but also to the site location itself. Situated in the historic wharf area of Kowloon, this district possesses a set of unique qualities. Energised by the canton railway, which once linked to the mainland, it is a vibrant hub for trade and culture, and this dynamic exchange is reflected in the material selections.
The metalwork makes reference to the site’s industrial past, while the ceramic tiles are sourced from Jingdezhen, a place that has been producing porcelain for over 1,000 years. Aldo Rossi explained in his seminal work “The Architecture of the City” how memory attaches itself to spatial structures within the built environment. Through time, these structures are replaced by modern artefacts, which rewrite the canvas of the city, and thus new artefacts become part of the collective memory of the city.
In many ways, Canton Road is still synonymous with luxury retail in Hong Kong; over the decades, however, with a constant rotation of tenants and their endless competition for attention, it has become increasingly difficult to filter through the chaos. Neri&Hu introduces a calm and elegant presence to the storefront condition through the use of authentically crafted materials, whose natural qualities are highlighted by their placement and detailing. Custom-shaped handmade ceramic tiles, glazed in nuanced shades of deep blue, are framed in bronze.
The combination of materials woven together in refined detail injects Piaget’s DNA into its new home on Canton Road. Much like civic monuments of ancient times, this approach reinforces the notion of architecture as a cultural symbol for the city and a mirror to our shared heritage and values.