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Snøhetta, London, Aesop

A Chapter House in Rosé: Aesop Store by Snøhetta in London

The Aesop cosmetics firm, which was established in Melbourne in 1987, is also well-known in the world of architecture. The company has each of its shops designed by more or less famous architects. This includes a few recurring architecture studios: for example, the collaboration between Aesop and Norwegian studio Snøhetta is now in its seventh round.

After the shops in Oslo and Singapore, as well as Berlin and Düsseldorf, London’s Chelsea district has had its turn. This time the Oslo architects were commissioned with a 108-square-metre sales room located on the ground floor of a corner building. The official name of the branch is Aesop Duke of York Square.

Snøhetta have taken the support that stands off-centre in the otherwise undelimited room and used it as the starting point for their design. They have created a vault, comprising 12 arched ribs, that recalls the chapter house of a Gothic monastery, particularly the one in the north English town of Wells. The ribs are coated with a clay plaster whose colour changes from light-pink at the foot of the column to a deep purple at the top of the vault. The artisans took the raw materials for the plaster from the southwest of England.

This central column is surrounded by a large, circular washstand made of stainless steel and fibreglass-reinforced plastic; it rests on thin metal legs. In one form or another, this type of water point plays a prominent role in all of Snøhetta’s existing Aesop stores.

The actual presentation of the products stands in marked contrast to this extravagance. Packaged in minimalist glass bottles and boxes, the cosmetics are kept on long rows of shelves on the back wall of the space, creating the effect of an elegant, old-fashioned pharmacy. Only the voluminous table lamp on the sales counter sets a further accent in this atmospheric spatial concept.

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