According to a report published by Grand View Research, the global eyewear market, valued at 121.38 billion in 2018, is predicted to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 7 per cent towards the year 2025, with ‘upsurge in the number of visual deficiencies and increasing awareness regarding eye examinations . . . expected to provide an impetus to the growth.’ With relative newcomers such as Ace & Tate focusing on design-driven retail experiences, legacy brands are forced to shake up their kerbside appeal.

In Athens, Mold Architects was tasked with bringing a 40-year-old optics store into the present day. Located near the city’s busiest street, which typically sees around 70,000 cars pass through daily, the store is a ‘landmark of Nea Smyrni’, the southern suburb in which it’s located, says a spokesperson for Mold. The designers say their ‘radical renovation’ and ‘overall design of a new, recognizable business brand identity’ for Centro Ottici were at the core of responding to consumer demand.

Since Centro Ottici is a multi-brand retailer, one obstacle the designers faced was trying to create the store’s own identity while promoting the various products, with their wide range of styles, materials and colours. The main challenge, though, was the ‘volume of information assembled in a confined space of about 50 square metres’. More specifically, they were faced with ‘a multitude of distinct infrastructure elements: counters with glasses, benches, drawers, furniture, lighting and visible air conditioning systems paired with a large amount of heterogeneous exhibits’. The result, the designers say, ‘contributed to a loaded environment, which was both tiring for the visitor and failed to showcase the product’.

Mold’s solution was to strip the store back to its bones and to ‘reimagine the product itself as a structural element, whose repetition would produce architectural space’. The most striking example of this methodology is the surface treatment on two of the store’s walls: a metal grid, or ‘curtain’, as the architects call it. Produced by multiplying a single unit based on the size of a pair of glasses and arranging the results in a header bond pattern familiar to brickwork, the grid – which displays both eyewear and mirrors – ‘allows for a greater degree of freedom and a reimagined exhibition of glasses’.