Photos: Peter Dixie for LOTAN Architectural Photography
When it comes to shape, size, or the way a structure is used or illuminated, the constellation of bright white prismatic forms set up on a busy square in Shanghai between modern skyscrapers and an historic temple initially comes across as being a little out of place. Viewing it briefly in passing by does not reveal what this unusual installation is really all about. And yet, in spite of the impressive architectural backdrop, this – in comparison – small group of illuminated objects – has a pretty significant presence in the urban space. The dwarf has entered the ring, so to speak. His opponents surround him. The arena is the urban realm.
That a convincing display is not only a matter of size is what this eyewear company’s pop-up pavilion sets out to prove. “Urban Prisms” is a retail spot in the middle of town, a pavilion where eyewear can be displayed and purchased. Pursuing the current pop-up retail trend, which generally tends to incorporate a retail store being opened on a short-term basis and for eye-catching effect, this fine example can be found in a highly visible location in Shanghai and comprises three sharply contoured white prisms made from translucent polycarbonate panels and framed by a grid of white scaffolding. The roof is punctured by three white prisms. In a mega-city like Shanghai there is light everywhere. During the daytime, it is sunlight that makes its way down through the high-rise buildings and the smog to street level; as darkness falls, it is the innumerable artificial light sources.
This pavilion contributes to the illumination of the public space in a unique way. The snow-white prismatic forms are reminiscent of icebergs or, since people can actually walk through them, of igloos. What is submerged in nature by sunlight and reflections glows from within in this case thanks to artificial light. From the outside, the surfaces are perceived as being cool white, whereas the view inside the pavilion reveals a contrast in atmosphere defined by warm white light. The closer you dare to go inside, the more different colours and luminous colours you will discover in the three prisms. Dichroic glass incorporated in some way into the upper sections of the prisms or in cubes at floor level filters the white light at various points across its surface and fills the space with delicate colours, alongside shadows created by visitors’ movements. The ‘retail chamber’ features colourful sunglasses, as well as wall-mounted triangles of recycled lenses, and a small prismatic skylight lined with neon-coloured acrylic casts a warm glow on those resting on the white sloping bench below.
“Urban Prisms” stands on its own, planted between the city buildings. Its lighting has special appeal, lending the angular shapes an element of self-confidence in the urban landscape they have been introduced to. The overall impression is one of artificial quality, and yet thanks to shape, colour and light analogies can be drawn to nature. A great example of “it’s little things that can make a difference”.
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