The Japanese architecture firm, Kengo Kuma and Associates, designed the interiors of the new Camper concept store on Passeig de Gracia in Barcelona, near Plaça de Catalunya, four years after its first collaboration with the famous footwear brand in Via Montenapoleone, Milan. This interior design project was based on the desire to create a new display concept in which every article is shown and enhanced individually. To so this, the firm created a system of niches composed of raw, monochrome ceramic elements similar to roofing tiles, simple little alcoves that, repeated in space, generate complex surfaces. These terracotta-colored elements, individually illuminated, are the only fixtures in the store: they cover the walls, the checkout counter and the seating for customers. The store also has a mirrored partition that, in addition to serving as an aid to sales, multiplies the enveloping effect of this three-dimensional “skin” that covers the walls, further highlighted by the pale resin of the floor and ceiling.
In this seemingly simple store Kengo Kuma wanted to celebrate the entire city, its genius loci and many architectural styles. First of all, the look of the niches cites the “panot”, the hexagonal tile Gaudí designed in 1904 and that covers the sidewalks of the Passeig de Gracia on which the Camper store is located. The “panot” is a solid hexagon with an embossed pattern and, like this pattern comes to life when the six pieces are united in the right order, so the Kuma niches define a composition to be appreciated as a whole. A composition that also cites the geometric perfection of Eixample, the innovative reticular district designed by urban planner and engineer Ildefons Cerdà, as well as the “volta catalana”, the vaulted brick ceilings that characterize the Barrio Gotico - the oldest part of Barcelona - and the architectural compositions (again Gaudí’s) of the Sagrada Familia cathedral and many of his civic buildings.
The use of terracotta tile and its vaulted shape was also intended to create an ideal bridge between Japanese and Spanish culture, combining typically Japanese minimalism with the welcoming warmth of Spain. The project was also an occasion for the Japanese architect to analyze the differences between the two countries in their use of roofing tile: “In Japan roofing tiles are glazed and shiny, while in the Mediterranean they are left raw, clearly showing the material”, he explained. “It’s fantastic to use such a traditional material and find new ways to work and model it, combining the units to create different architectural elements able to meet the needs of contemporary life.”