Hide and Seek
Aric Chen -- Interior Design, 4/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
Disruptive pattern material, or DPM, is a technical term for camouflage, describing its ability to trick the eye. Fuse that acronym with an abbreviation for the street-wear label Maharishi, and you form the name of DPMHI, a hip new London shop where nearly every item bears a clever interpretation of the disorienting print—from jackets and skater T-shirts to graffiti-art books and ironic action figures. To house this dizzying array of youth-culture merchandise, François Scali Architects came up with an interior that nimbly plays with perceptions, as well.
DPMHI occupies 3,000 square feet divided between the ground level and basement of a five-story 1920's building in London's fashionable Soho district. (Maharishi's office and showrooms, which firm principal François Scali also designed, reside on the upper stories.)
To make more room for valuable selling space, the architect says, he "burst open" the retail levels by stripping away wood paneling on all four walls and removing an awkward staircase to the right of the entrance. The demolition work also exposed structural elements, enhancing DPMHI's industrial cool.
At the entry, where vending machines dispense camouflage-printed toys, Scali dropped the ceiling to 7 feet to emphasize the generous 12-foot height of the main selling area beyond. He saved his boldest gesture, however, for the rear of the shop, where he removed a 300-square-foot portion of floor to accommodate two additional sales areas, stacked above and below. They're connected by steel stairs painted crimson, just like the structural columns that support the three short flights.
The mezzanine and basement levels create a diversity of bird's-eye and worm's-eye vantage points. The new stairs, balustrades, and columns also frame a rear light well, transforming the white-painted brick volume into a vertical "gallery" of hung clothing installations—visible all the way from the entry.
Of course, in an environment jam-packed with camouflage, Scali couldn't resist incorporating some of it. A ceramic mosaic of Maharishi's trademark forest pattern, which features abstract bonsai tree and dragon shapes, covers the floor of the entire basement. Rubber tiles form a lower-resolution, pixelated version on the ground level.
Other details are less preconceived. During construction, Scali had scribbled notes to contractors on a few existing columns. When surfaces couldn't be sandblasted clean, he declared them blank canvases for creative customers. "Everyone can add their own graffiti," he says. Now that's real street cred.