John Pawson, a known minimalist among architects, was commissioned by the Munich luxury department store Oberpollinger to design a comprehensive master plan for an up-to-date reimagining of the department store. As part of the concept, Gonzalez Haase AAS was selected to design the 3,600 sq. meter lower level to house the Kids Wear and Toys department as well as a newly created Urban Wear and Accessory department.
Gonzalez Haase AAS, who in 2003 began designing the first concept stores for Andreas Murkudis all over Germany, in these spaces transferred the classic parameters of an art space onto retail spaces: clearly readable spaces with simple lighting and raw, almost improvised surfaces constructed from inexpensive materials. The combination of these factors created cool spaces, elegant in shape and with a detached precision, while stimulating in their choice of color — a tone that suits Berlin and that Gonzalez Haase AAS has characterized as the so-called ‘Berlin style’.
Oberpollinger did not merely ask for an architecture and design concept but rather for a certain attitude that could be experienced via the overall design and that would enable the customer to identify with a rough and energetic atmosphere characteristic of Berlin. The basic structure of the story has been left raw, the cement untreated, and the ceiling ducts and ventilation left visible. In
contrast, reflective surfaces in the form of screens and oversized bolts are placed around the concrete columns: never to completely disguise them, but always as a clearly visible collision of the polished and the raw. Set into the ground are pink and anthracite-colored tiles, marking the layout of the floor plan, defining aisles, and differentiating the open space into distinct zones. Similar to a metropolis, Oberpollinger shifts from one quality of life to another, from a world of gleaming luxury to a darker, contemporary, and for Munich, less familiar form of urbanity.
In the Kids Wear department, which borders Urban Wear, the anthracite-colored tiles are swapped out with white, and the ceiling is dropped via a white metal mesh construction. Materials switch from rubber and aluminum to Swiss pine and cork, and the columns are covered with red- and blue-mirrored surfaces. As different as the two areas appear – one with a bright feel, the other exhibiting a darker atmosphere – they are closely related via the same creative principle: Gonzalez Haase’s design is put together by the interaction of different layers that follow a certain choreography yet remain unhierarchic and distinguishable as individual. First analyzing the essence and context of the building, in the next step Gonzalez Haase AAS reduces the surfaces by removing all that seems unnecessary. Due to their spatial purity, light — which to Gonzalez Haase AAS is as significant as the support columns of a building — becomes the space-defining design element. Selection of the material and color of displays, partitions, and furniture are made in a final step. In the end, each project functions as a kind of three-dimensional collage that rids the elements of their qualities, becoming components of a network of relationships in physical space.