Few things are as American as the idea that with a great work ethic, any individual can achieve anything—be it as grand a dream as becoming the president or a professional athlete or as seemingly basic as earning an education. While this fundamental belief may seem rudimentary in most Western countries, many parts of the world don't openly preach the same way, which made sportswear giant Under Armour's decision to open their first store in China a difficult one. To convince a culture less than enthusiastic about the concept that everyone can be an athlete, the Maryland-based brand brought in HUSH Studio, who in turn hired architecture and design studio Marc Thorpe Design, to create an experimental retail space centered on the architecture of Under Armour—action, vigor and endurance.
"In China, the word athlete, denotes that you have to be a professional in a sport," explains Thorpe on the challenges the project faced. "Here, Under Armour is communicating training—not as professional athletes but as people working to achieve physical greatness." This discrepancy, combined with the store's physical architecture inspired by movement and muscular definition, make the space possible. With the freedom to focus on the spirit of sport (and of Under Armour, of course) rather than selling mass amounts of apparel, Thorpe and his partner Greg Chiaramonte were able to literally and figuratively minimize the retail floorspace in favor of a technically impressive, multidimensional theater.
Upon entering, the store's dynamic architecture draws visitors down a long illuminated hall—designed to ready one's retinas for the following room—to the theatre, where an exaggerated 270-degree panoramic film surrounds and engulfs the viewer. The technically integrated film, designed and directed by HUSH Studio, tells the story of Under Armour through their premier athletes and latest innovations in active product design. From here visitors are encouraged to continue into the retail space, where mannequins showcase the latest gear and the architecture transforms to create a more intimate, almost temple-like space.
Located in the new Jing An Kerry Center in central Shanghai, the space is the first of potentially many "retail theatre" concept stores for the brand. Keep an eye out for more to come in the near future, and see more details of the store layout and design at Marc Thorpe Design online.
Images courtesy of Marc Thorpe Design