For the cosmetic e-tailer’s fourth physical location, AIM Architecture focused on balancing warehouse-style storage and consumer-facing experience.

Discovery and mystery drive the customer experience at each store that AIM Architecture has designed for cosmetics brand Harmay. The e-tailer has now opened its fourth brick-and-mortar location at a shopping mall in Chengdu, a 625-sq-m retail environment that AIM says draws inspiration from lyrical Tang Dynasty poet Li Bai and brutalism. While the two may seem an unlikely pairing, establishing unexpected connections between cultural references enables the architects to give each Harmay space a unique identity. ‘I want to ensure that Harmay’s customers can always enjoy a comfortable, serene experience while in one of our stores, especially given that picking out cosmetics is very much an intimate and personal act, said Harmay CEO Damien Zhong in a Frame 133 interview. ‘You don’t want someone intruding on your thoughts while you’re looking for the perfect face cream. All of Harmay’s stores are designed with these intentions firmly in mind – we encourage our customers to explore every nook and cranny and discover new products at their own pace.’

 The Chengdu space is envisioned like an ancient road system, namely the shudao, an iconic route in China which Bai frequented. Concrete and glass form the façade and pave the interior path, which splits into three individual routes and products are merchandized in open-faced, table-like structures along this journey. The climax – or, the second floor – opens up to the visitor as if they have reached the summit of a mountain. Here, greenery and sleek surfaces make for an inviting area which invites shoppers to engage with the products in a more traditional way.