Homegrown design is leading the way in Russia’s new hip city

Rostov-on-Don, Russia – Last month, a flood of international football fans landed in the freshly designed Platov Airport, located at the mouth of the Don River. The airport, along with a massive football stadium, shot up in the city in time for the FIFA World Cup, but young Russians are pointing to the technology start-ups and small-scale interventions driving the future of the riverside city. Take, for example, the Like Shop Showroom: it’s a spirited case of the design-focused entrepreneurs that are taking ownership of a city long known for industry and trade.

The 46 sq-m space is split into a bright yellow reception area and a showroom fitted with a pink faux-fur changing room.

‘Young people tend to leave their hometowns and move to big cities,’ said Eduard Eremchuk, the local architect behind the project. ‘When something new appears in [one’s] hometown, everyone sees that you can create what you want no matter where you are.’ This notion of re-experiencing one’s hometown has become an exercise in necessity in Russia, where young entrepreneurs are resourcefully engaging the local community. With trade sanctions placed on the country following geopolitical conflicts, local retailers were impacted by the high cost of importing fashions and fabric. This purchasing isolation led Russians to create the goods and environment that were no longer afforded to them. Like Shop, for example, had to transition from a reseller to a designer and manufacturer of 90 per cent of their products.

As the homegrown took over the racks, the store realised it was also an opportunity to change their image – and this is where Eremchuk came in. He saw that entrepreneurs are recognising that interior design provides the opportunity to ‘surprise [the consumer] and show something new.’ So the young architect infused the 46 sq-m space with bright colours, unexpected textures and references from art and design to draw in local image-makers.

This purchasing isolation led Russians to create the goods and environment that were no longer afforded to them

The first encounter with the space is through the reception area, an  overload of cyber yellow – dissolving the corners and ceilings into colour. The space becomes infinite by way of a mirrored wall that encourages the visitor to see comparisons with the light works of American artist James Turrell. Beyond a glass door is the showroom, scattered with objects illustrating a material-focused take on surrealism. Iridescent coloured glass and mirrors are strewn throughout the space with custom-created clothing racks and palm trees lining the walls. But it’s the changing room that lays claim to the focus of the space: a column, carpeted in pink faux fur, stands in the center. The stall is reminiscent of Verner Panton’s Clover Leaf sofa – a form upholstered in purple synthetic fur for the 1970 installation Visiona 2.

The Like Shop Showroom is in good company, with neighbouring businesses like a café set in the style of Rostov modernism run by young writers, a drinking hole opened by a local punk-musician-turned-bar-owner and a pub drenched in red neon light serving up Rostov’s signature crayfish. The shifting urban landscape is an exclamation that, regardless of temporary football spectacles, the young entrepreneurs of Rostov-on-Don are working to change the city’s design for good.

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