Aesop, 1 Utama


Located in Petaling Jaya, Aesop, 1 Utama seeks to contextualise the often-placeless retail experience to a specific place and time. Drawing inspiration from Selangor’s nineteenth-century tin-mining trade, it explores how a commonplace material – corrugated roofing sheets – can be adapted in inventive ways.

Commonly seen in large cities and kampungs – along highways and side streets, in homes and markets, at hawker stalls and factories all over Malaysia – the corrugated ‘tin’ roof sheet is almost part of the vernacular architecture. It is a humble, affordable and versatile material. Originally made entirely of tin, and today more commonly of alloys, the sheets have an intrinsic link to the Selangor region, which is rich in tin-mining history.

Aesop, 1 Utama is an homage to corrugated roofing sheet and the place it has in the region’s life and history. The store is built essentially around two expressions of corrugated tin: a vertical planar use of the sheets, which expresses its undulating surface, and a horizontal stacked cross-sectional approach to using the material, expressing its mass and edge profiles.

In its vertical application, the sheets are used as formwork to cast concrete walls. The service counters are expressed as simple blocks of concrete. In its horizontal expression, densely packed corrugated metal sheets reveal a shimmering and often-unseen perspective of the corrugated tin roof: its stacked edges as a form of visual expression. By varying the width and thicknesses of the stacking, a range of elements is created: slim product display shelves, a sturdy plinth for seating and weighty platforms for visual merchandising.

This project questions retail design as something that creates global brand identity that is replicated in cities the world over. Instead, it advocates for the humility of a global business identifying with the locality of the region, thereby creating an emulsification of authentic, layered experiences. At Aesop, 1 Utama, the experience of the retail space is visceral and cerebral.

Fittings & Fixtures: Vola.

Photography: Studio Periphery, courtesy of Aesop