Aesop International Market Place entrance

‘Over trackless past, somewhere, lie the lost days of our tropic youth. ’

Bret Harte

Created in collaboration with architect Kian Yam of Woh Studio, Aesop International Market Place is characterized by relaxed materiality and a fluid dialogue between exterior and interior. Situated in a lively, semi-open retail hub in Honolulu’s Waikiki, the 555-square foot space takes inspiration from rich-hued timber, local construction techniques, and the vernacular of tropical modernism.

Prevalent in the 1950s, tropical modernism owes its dues to the wider modernist movement, adapting the international style with an eye for Hawaii’s immediate context: climate, materials and surrounding nature. The design for Aesop International Market Place unfolded in this same spirit.

To create a dialogue with the open courtyard facing the tenancy, the space is split into three distinct zones: an outdoor foyer; a hybrid retail floor, at once indoors and out; and a semi-enclosed back-of-house. Each is separated by articulated screens of wood-framed glass. Transparent and flexible, they can be adjusted to open or enclose the space dependent on the rhythms of the retail center.

Douglas Fir timber reclaimed from a 1950s structure on Ford Island, Pearl Harbor defines much of the space, cladding the ceiling, forming the screens and furnishing sink and point-of-sale carpentry. Textural counterpoint arrives in the form of hand-patched white plaster walls—a unique local method of finishing that creates rough mounds which catch light and shadow.


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