The Assembled Market
The concept of the Supermarket was born as a by-product of the fast-paced lifestyle in the United States back in the 1930s. Most markets in China adopt the conventional spatial model based on efficiency but often lack a memorable character.
Commissioned by Fresh Mart, a new brand established in Changsha, to design its store identity, Lukstudio has reinterpreted elements from common Chinese markets and street booths, giving the familiar typology an unfamiliar facelift.
Located next to several high-end residential compounds in a newly developed zone of Changsha, the given irregular site comes with two entrances, one facing Pingsha Road and the other connecting to the HiPark Mall.
Throughout the market, a wooden frame is used as an infrastructure that ties all the different sections: fruit & vegetable, fishmonger, butchery, dry goods, restaurant, cafe and bakery. Each section is then characterized by an assembly of relevant features or textures. For example, the street facade and the nearby dry goods section are marked by stacking milk crates which convey a sense of order to the busy racks and double as spectacular lighting features at night.
In the fresh vegetable section, the idea is to create the experience of walking down the aisles in a local Chinese outdoor market, and the key is a series of metal mesh canopies mimicking tarpaulin. At the corner where the butchery turns into the fishmonger, apart from a lively wall graphic linking the sections, a material gradation along the counter intends to smooth the transition.
Inspired by the sturdy chopping board often used by butchers, wooden blocks of different depths line the meat section and gradually change into a waterproof stone finish surrounding the self-serviced fish tanks.
The dining area is conceived as an open-air street food stall. Hovering over an array of refrigerated goods and seating, the wooden frame structure here transforms into an ad-hoc pitched roof with the addition of corrugated panels.
Lattice screens are used as a visually permeable barrier between dining and shopping, but also a unifying texture wrapping around counters and equipment. Bamboo tables, rattan chairs and flagstone pavers together compose a Chinese vernacular, recalling the memory of having humble yet authentic dishes at an outdoor local joint.
Following the flagstone pavement, the “open-air” food stall leads to a more intimate bakery and café area. By replacing corrugated panels with a purlin structure, the wooden frame gives form to a gable-roof cabin, optimising the original low-ceiling space into a cosy hangout in the market with terraced seating.
At the bakery cabin, a grid extends from the gable roof structure and becomes the framework of an orderly bread display. At the check-out area, moulded strawboard with a weaving profile is used to line the counter front and the menu above. It’s natural warm tone and rich texture help compose the overall welcoming ambience.
With the proliferation of e-commerce, ordering online groceries has become a norm in China. The purpose of a physical supermarket therefore should be a platform where customers learn new knowledge on food and preparation; it could grow a community where the elders pass on lifestyle tips to the youths; it is simply a place to be social and meet others. By creating a vernacular ambience in a modern supermarket, Lukstudio wishes to reinforce the collective memory of a vivid marketplace.
Photos: Dirk Weiblen Photography