Who made it ahead of the pack in the retail world in the past two years? At Frame Publishers, we are gearing up to answer that question with the sixth edition of Powershop, our book series on the state of shop design around the world. The survey is now open for submissions, and we invite ateliers and design studios around the world to share their outstanding translations of brand DNA into 3D experiences.

The previous edition in the series, Powershop 5, featured over 100 shops -- from luxury fashion to jewellery and bookstores -- that used local materials to tell a company story or convey visual metaphors. We look back at some of the rationales behind some intriguing choices and wonder: Which materials will surprise and delight us in Powershop 6?

Librería Conarte

Photos by Estudio Tampiquito

This bookstore for Monterrey's Council for Culture and Art is imagined as a nook where visitors can lose themselves in a book. The client, Conarte, supports, stimulates and preserves the arts.

This particular space was designed to promote the experience of reading, with an emphasis on ‘experience’. Located in a renovated hacienda, the design preserves existing stone walls, wooden ceiling beams and old window frames. The architects poured the floors and stairs in concrete and crafted the new furniture and bleachers from pine plywood.

The concept of the interior focuses on manufacturing an environment capable of wrapping the reader up comfortably, activating the imagination and welcoming them to spend more time there, not just to make a purchase, but to enjoy the act of reading. Aside from holding books, in a nimble act of trompe l’oeil, the shelves knit together and bend fluidly to form a dome under the ceiling that recedes into the remote distance of the not-so-far-away rear wall, playing with visual perspective.

Two additional elements help to reinforce the forced perspective: tiers of star-like bleachers painted with a colourful ombre finish also create a perception of depth and, at the very back, a simple, illuminated half-circle on the wall serves as the vanishing point of the composition.

Audi Ultrastore
Photos by Marcus Zumbansen

The Audi Ultrastore is intended to serve several purposes: it is a brand immersion, a pop-up shop – Audi’s first – contained in a box, and an illustration of how the automobile manufacturer innovates to unite lightweight construction processes with efficiency and design.

The minimal interior of the space, design by the Munich-based Schmidhuber architecture office, includes a seemingly featherweight sculpture reminiscent of a vastly scaled-up mesh.

Located in the ‘concept mall’ Bikini Berlin, where the emphasis is on renewing and reinventing the contemporary shopping experience, the scalable Ultrastore box was built to turn a 2D message about Audi’s synthesis of technological performance with ‘invisible’ efficiency into a walkable 3D space. Inside a cargo container-size wooden frame, the boxes sculptural ‘mesh’ forms a super-porous membrane of branching aluminium pieces around heavier, opaque white displays containing the Audi Sport product range, which are made from powder-coated sheet aluminium. These units – ribbon-like and rhomboidal with large window-like apertures – allow the products to be viewed from both inside (clearly) and out (just enough to draw passers-by inside). The Schmidhuber team also mounted a screen to the wooden ceiling beams to show films about the brand and to showcase accessories, including backpacks and duffle bags, sunglasses and wallets, and even model cars.

Frame Store
i29 Interior Architects
Photos by Ewout Huibers

More than a shop, the Frame Store is a creative platform meant to offer a three-dimensional experience of its namesake Dutch interior magazine over two retail floors and a gallery. Frame Publishers teamed up with Foam Photography Museum to open the canal-side creative centre in the historic Felix Meritis building.

The publisher-turned-retailer needed to showcase not just new products but emerging talent and innovative brands, mixing up fashion, art and design with media, beauty and food. Inside, the original rafters, beams and floors planks showcase the old-school grandeur of the space. i29 Interior Architects added plinths, mirrored panels and two reflective fitting rooms, a small art gallery and stairs leading to a landing that surveys the space, whilst generating a surreal image for shoppers below who see only the torsos of those at the top of the stairs.

The mirrors absorb the new volumes into the existing space, where they become another of the stories written into its architecture. With glimpses of the ultramodern products on display, old and new are enriched by the contrast. The use of many mirrors also represents Frame magazine’s role in broadcasting images of important design to the world. Just so, old architecture and new products are broadcast throughout the monumental space.

House of Smart
Maurice Mentjens
Photos by Arjen Schmitz

The Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) once dubbed Eindhoven the ‘world’s smartest region’. Partly to reflect its location as the technological heart of the Netherlands, Maurice Mentjens designed this stimulants shop as an abstraction of the brain. Its monolithic but irregular latticing of walls and ceiling suggests neural pathways. Even the colour scheme refers to the cerebral cortex, or ‘grey matter’.

Mentjens’ previous smart shop interior were modelled on an alchemy lab and spiritual space; at Eindhoven, the shop theme is richly and energetically layered: inside, old brick walls were left exposed, linking the new design to a larger history of time and place. The generously sized storefront windows are not just about a view to sales, but about transparency, literal and metaphorical. The myriad cross-hatched wooden beams, which create a deep texture, refers not just to streams of thought, but to labyrinths, holography and the local lighting industry, computer chips and motherboards; they even function as narrow shelving, presenting product samples. LED ‘beams’ that match the dimensions of the wooden beams suggest the firing of synapses but also, of course, enlightenment, pure and simple.

‘The realm of creativity is chaos,’ says Mentjens. ‘An open mind is of vital importance for true renewal.’

Rattan Clouds
Studio Sklim
Photos by Khoo Guo Jie

The interior of this contemporary lifestyle goods retailer can be changed up constantly to accommodate its changing merchandise. Designed by Singaporean design firm Studio Sklim, Rattan Clouds is a versatile solution that makes the shop not just reconfigurable but ‘multiconfigurable’. The Rattan capsules are bent into spheres by traditional artisans and finished in a variety of stains that can be used whole or split into hemispheres for seating, storage, display and lighting.

Passersby can view the entire shop through the floor-to-ceiling glass façade before entering the white space dressed with a matte-finish polyurethane concrete screed floor and a concrete floating cash desk. Brass fixtures – fittings, garment racks along with hinges and chains on the capsules – complement the concrete and Rattan. As luminaires, the Clouds house halo like bulbs and cast ‘shadow textures’ against other surfaces. Those suspended from the 4.7 m ceiling can be raised and lowered by a mechanical crank to make space for exhibitions, installations and gatherings.

The repetition of the form over diverse applications and the emphasis on the Rattan spheres creates an art installation as visual merchandising and a space that is not only commercial but cultured. The arranging and rearranging of the space makes the store feel as ephemeral as a cloud sky.

Submit your retail designs to be published in the next edition of Powershop, scheduled for release in May of 2019! Find out more here. The deadline for publication is September 30.