What does Li Bai, lyrical poet from the Tang Dynasty, architectural brutalism, and a modern-day cosmetics store in a shopping mall have in common? Allow us to introduce the newest HARMAY store, in the heart of Chengdu, where journey and discovery meet the future of shopping. Li Bai, famed poet of the Tang Dynasty, wrote in the poem “The Hard Road to Shu”, the stairs to heaven are easier to climb than the road to Sichuan. With Chinese e-tailer HARMAY’s fourth brick and mortar location in Chengdu, Sichuan, AIM Architecture has bridged the gaps between the power of a journey, and the beauty of discovery. The new location, on the ground floor of a busy shopping mall, spans 2 floors with a brutalist concrete and glass facade. Brutalism, with its rejection of nostalgia, perfectly balances the metaphor of a journey and rich history of the area.
▼门店外观，exterior of the project © Dirk Weiblen
Like standing at the start of a winding mountainous path, the exterior facade leaves almost everything to the imagination. There are hints of green plants on the second floor, flashes of light filtering through the blocked grid. The facade functions like a cage around the space itself, a powerful, beautiful obstacle.
▼门店主入口，main entrance of the project © Dirk Weiblen
踏入空间内部，品牌的演变、顾客的体验之旅，随着“蜀道”变得清晰。AIM 的話梅“剧本”总是带有一丝神秘色彩: 香港店-顾客化身为一位老派药剂师，通过打开抽屉的动作，自由探索空间中的新物件; 北京店-把顾客从台前带入幕后，亲历新零售流水线的整个过程; 上海旗舰店则将电子零售重新想象成一种由衷而生的互动体验。
Once inside, the evolution of the brand, the customer journey, and the shudao become clear. AIM’s HARMAY playbook always involves an element of mystery: the Hong Kong shop emulates an old-school chemist, where guests are free to uncover new items by opening drawers; the Beijing store draws on theater, taking customers behind the scenes of the HARMAY production; the Shanghai flagship reimagines e-commerce as a visceral, interactive experience.
▼店内概览，overall of the project © Dirk Weiblen
As HARMAY expands its physical presence, the design relationship between journey and convenience deepens. Translated as ‘the road to shu’, the shudao is an ancient road system connecting central China with the mountainous and rugged Southwestern Sichuan. This iconic route, and the many natural and cultural treasures that surround it, is deeply embedded in both the land and Chinese lore. For the Chengdu location, the design philosophy evolved out of this historic context.
▼蜿蜒的货架围合出的“蜀道” ， ‘the road to shu’ created by the shelvings © Dirk Weiblen
▼充足的储物空间平衡仓储需求和消费者的体验感, Adequate storage space to balance storage needs and consumer experience © Dirk Weiblen
In the center of the store, shoppers are greeted by a huge, ascending path – the shudao. Three unique routes all lead to a centralized high point. As guests walk up the slope, products are easily discoverable stored in open-faced table-like structures that follow the slope of the path upward. Its sides are textured with Steel racks and provide more opportunities for shoppers to engage with products.
▼空间一层布满蜿蜒的钢板货架, the space’s first floor with winding steel shelves © Dirk Weiblen
▼顾客可以清晰地探索侧方开放式格子中的产品, the shelvings provide more opportunities for shoppers to engage with products © Dirk Weiblen
The steel shelving, textured stucco above and stainless steel walls call back the chic, uncluttered unity of the other stores, without infringing on this new brand iteration. While Li Bai might agree this path is much easier to climb than his ancient shudao, shoppers on a mission will note there is a shortcut via a circular staircase to the gallery-like second floor.
▼钢板货架细部, details of the shelvings © Dirk Weiblen
The second floor opens up, where like summiting a mountain, the view is quite different.
▼由楼梯看向一层空间, viewing the first floor on the stair © Dirk Weiblen
▼拾阶而上，犹如登峰, stepping up the stair like summiting a mountain © Dirk Weiblen
▼登上楼梯二楼迎面的景象豁然开朗, the second floor opens up, the view is quite different © Dirk Weiblen
Greeted by greenery and gently layered curved steel shelves, the sleek semi reflective surfaces provide more momentum and more to discover. Shoppers can expect a slightly more standard cosmetics shopping experience here, and stay curious and engaged with the brand through the energy of the design.
▼二层入口，entrance of the second floor © Dirk Weiblen
▼绿色植物与轻盈且错落有致的弧形不锈钢货架，Greeted by greenery and gently layered curved steel shelves © Dirk Weiblen
▼光滑的半反射不锈钢材质吸引着客人继续向前探索，sleek semi reflective surfaces provide more momentum and more to discover © Dirk Weiblen
Toward the rear of the space, a lab exists where products not tested on animals can be tried. Named We Are All Animals, this space connects the physical experience of being in the store to the e-commerce arm of the brand; products tried here in the lab can’t be purchased, only ordered online.
▼“話梅实验室”， a lab exists where products not tested on animals can be tried © Dirk Weiblen
▼“話梅实验室”细部， detail of the lab © Dirk Weiblen
As HARMAY grows, the need to balance the warehouse-style storage and consumer-facing experience intersect more visibly. It was critical the design incorporated this, and recontextualize the brand’s ethos for a new end-user. The twists and turns of HARMAY’s shudao capitalize on the deep context of its home city and give a refreshing perspective on what it means to be on a journey – for the brand, and the customer. In “The Hard Road to Shu”, Li Bai wonders if the shudao will ever end. With HARMAY’s latest store, it’s safe to say the journey has only just begun.
▼项目细部， detail of the project © Dirk Weiblen
▼一层平面图，1f plan © AIM 恺慕建筑设计
▼二层平面图，2f plan © AIM 恺慕建筑设计
设计总监：Wendy Saunders，Vincent de Graaf