“French Kiss,” Jean Paul Gaultier boutique and showroom
Savannah College of Art and Design
critic: jean JAMINET
suckerPUNCH: Describe your project.
jean JAMINET: The challenge for this 2nd year studio was to design a boutique and showroom for the French fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier as an addition to the Saks Fifth Avenue department store in Atlanta, Georgia.
One of the ambitions of this studio was to use the “kiss” as a modulation between the intimacy of the interior and the publicity of an urban event.
According to Sylvia Lavin, “a kiss is the coming together of two similar but not identical surfaces, the geometry of which softens and flexes when in contact.” A mere kiss in this context would have been seen as an act of pity or consolation. A French kiss, on the other hand, is more sensual and provocative – and sometimes perverse. A deliberate public display of affection was necessary to advertise Gaultier’s unique brand and emphasize the prominence of this particular site.
The Gaultier brand has always challenged the orthodoxy of the fashion establishment and the brand continues to provoke audiences with its unique sense of innovation, seduction, and spectacle. The studio studied the work of Gaultier and other couture forms. Particular techniques from these references were extracted including folding, pleating, ruffling, draping, and ruching in order to computationally adjust their spatial characteristics using NURBS modeling, particularly Rhino. The French kiss denotes the intimate exchange of information across disciplines as well as a potent technique for producing affects through stimulating digital production.
The project site is located in Atlanta’s Peachtree shopping district. This semi-urban shopping hub—a conglomeration of shopping malls, hotels, parking logs and office buildings—is devoid of signage and character. This site was chosen because of its adjacency to the department store and proximity to the street. Within this context, geometric boundaries impose restrictions to topological design ambitions. The potential of this intimate interaction responds to the lack of public space by addressing growing demands for architecture that establishes a contemporary public presence.
The idea was to “kiss” the hard surface of the existing white box department store with a new soft supple surface; developing a new facade and corner condition and therefore a public presence for this prominent retail location. The French kiss also involves the act of penetration and an inherent interiority. The topological transformations that occur between surfaces confound the boundary between interior and exterior. Continuity is implied by the blending of shapes; however, the interior and exterior maintain spatial distinction through the act of embracing, enveloping, and consuming.
Interior detachment is inherent to the department store typology. Windowless walls and regulated space provide a backdrop for the display of merchandise. However, effects produced by the French kiss substitute detachment for intimacy and material closeness while maintaining this necessary distinction. Space is modulated through topological transformation and excessive integration of aperture, coloration, texture, and material. The surfaces and the merchandise work together to create a spectacle of intense affect. If, as Lavin suggests, the museum can provide its visitors with foreplay, then this unrequited aesthetic experience can be consummated in the department store.
Studio: Jan Candelaria, Francesca Carne, Jesse Hammer, David Harrop, Robert Hon, Suyoung Kim, Evan Kuester, DJ Persad, Victoria Rong, Kamila Silva, Geoffrey Tears, Pin Thienapirak, Fanny Varga, Jonathan Walker.
sP: What or who influenced this project?
jJ: Jean Paul Gaultier; fashion construction techniques; Baroque, Rococo, Art Nouveau architecture and interiors; Iris Van Herpen and Daniel Widrig; Alexander McQueen, Savage Beauty; David Bowie.
sP: What were you reading/listening to/watching while developing this project?
jJ: Reading Greg Lynn Form, “Hair and Makeup” by Jason Payne, Kissing Architecture by Sylvia Lavin, The Possibility of an Absolute Architecture by Pier Vittorio Aureli. Watching Barbarella, Lagerfeld Confidential, Valentino: The Last Emperor, “Ugly Form.”
sP: Whose work is currently on your radar?
jJ: David Bantz, Gabriel Esquivel, Mark Gage, Elena Manferdini, and Jonah Rowen.