Named as a homonym to the word “womb,” the showroom for Taipei Taiwan fashion designer Stephane Dou and Changlee Yugin reflects the duo’s collective vision: to have their store be an incubator and showcase of creativity. Whereas other showrooms focus solely on howcasing the latest fashion, the two designers sees their showroom, located in an alley on Chungshan N. Road and a stone’s throw from The Spot theater, as a home base for future development, setting their sights on incorporating furnishings, accessories, and even music retail in the future.
The fashion designers wanted something avant-garde and industrial, with a whiff of the alternative thrown in, yet still reflecting the heritage of traditional handicrafts found in the history of DiHua Street and Chungshan district’s Tai Yuan Road. To achieve this, architect Shichieh Lu chose to use a palette of industrial materials including galvanized steel and metal meshes, particleboards, exposed ductwork, and aluminum sidings that stand in as ceiling panels. Though conventionally relegated to basements and the like, these seemingly lowly materials have, in the case of wum, taken on radically different spatial and visual qualities once brought out into the open.
The two-storied space, occupying approximately 470m, has a metal-meshed facade that folds to accommodate the entrance, and a horizontal protrusion that bulges out over the entrance and becomes a protective awning. At once opaque and permeable, the metal mesh creates a street side elevation distinct from the building’s surroundings, and allows the façade to become transparent at night. A space of contrasts, the double-height entrance incorporates particleboards juxtaposed against a curved surface of galvanized steel extending all the way up the walls. This single plane of metal is punctured by a rectilinear aperture that marks the staircase, on either side of which are dressing rooms that mark the transition from first floor to second. Dark and enigmatic, the tunnel-like opening of the stairwell marks visually the separation between thresholds, and beckons the visitor to enter and explore.
On the second floor, the design language changes to accommodate rectangular, metal ducts that swoop up, down, and around the space, framing views and on a more practical level, acting as display counters. Unabashedly industrial, these ducts not only animate the space, but highlight too the difference between first and second floor: whereas the first floor is spacious and brightly lit, the second floor is in comparison darker and grittier.
With elements as varied as steel meshes that open up, tunnel apertures that act as transitions, and ductwork that perform much more than their usual function, the treatment of the space not only attempts to echo all the inherent connotations of the word “womb,” but also offers additional room for associations. Located deep within a residential alley, the showroom defines itself as a window of lifestyle and attitude, and a blank slate holding infinite possibilities for the future.