Preserving a neighbourhood institution – Aesop honours heritage in its evolution of space

NEW YORK CITY – Walk through the streets of Manhattan with a born-New Yorker and you can expect them to grouse about urban gentrification, pointing out the new shops and trendy cafés that tenant what used to be mom-and-pop places.

Anel French Cleaners was one such neighbourhood institution. The family-run operation dry-cleaned for ‘the Central Park fancy-schmancies’ since the 60s, Robin Saltzman tells the New York Times. But now that the Saltzmans have shut down Anel French Cleaners, Robin Saltzman is quick to give assurance that it isn’t because of rent increases – her father Leo bought the building years ago.

The Saltzmans simply chose to retire. ‘They still own and live in the building,’ says Jeremy Barbour of Tacklebox Architecture, who led the redesign of the store. ‘The family selected Aesop to reimagine this space, and they were very pleased that we honoured their father’s legacy by restoring the sign and working within this context.’

‘I believe this may be the first Aesop store without a physical Aesop sign on the exterior,’ adds Barbour.

This is the sixth collaboration between Tacklebox and the Australian skincare brand, and once again we see Barbour’s signature approach that carefully considers the history and local context of a given site.

‘Anel French Cleaners has been a landmark and an integral part of this community for the last 60 years,’ says Barbour, ‘so we crafted a design that sits within the existing storefront and speaks sensitively to the heritage of its predecessor through materiality, form, and colour.’

In addition to preserving the façade and restoring the Anel French Cleaners signage, Barbour draws a visual thread between the interior of the Aesop store and that of the dry cleaners with the display shelves, which nod to the racks of clothes that would have hung there.

Made of the same timber with which the walls are dressed, the shelving assumes the form of clothes hangers, upside-down and protruding halfway from the wall (with the flat edge facing up and the shoulder side down as a support).

The milled pine plywood on the walls and shelves is repeated in the counter surfaces, with grey terrazzo tiling on the floors in the Aesop brand palette of neutral tones and natural materials. The long wash basin with a distressed finish was inspired by the role Anel French Cleaners played as a neighbourhood laundry service.

‘The site is situated in the residential neighbourhood of Manhattan’s Upper West Side,’ says Barbour. ‘As residential neighbourhoods are defined by private dwellings, the barbershop, the salon and the laundry are historically where private meets public. These trusted neighbourhood establishments foster community by providing a common place for the ritual of personal maintenance and restoration.’

To safeguard the communal status of the site, Tacklebox installed the long wash basin over which customers may regularly meet Aesop retail consultants and enjoy a complementary skincare consultation or treatment. Extending the legacy of Leo Saltzman, Aesop offers the neighbourhood a fresh space for the ritual of care and cleansing, restoration and renewal.

Billboard: F119 Out Now
Billboard: F119 Out Now

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