retail store, gallery and garden


Zao opened in the Spring of 2000 and is located on the lower east side of Manhattan at 175 Orchard Street.  Its artist-owners conceived the store as a “laboratory” of carefully curated, rotating, progressive selections in art, fashion, design, furniture and housewares.  The design directive for this “laboratory” demanded ultimate flexibility.  The architecture of the store/gallery/garden is intended to be as progressive as Zao’s collections, displays and events - but to take care not to upstage them.

The material and color palette of our fixtures and insertions was deliberately muted to whites, off-whites, transparencies and translucencies.  In order to create the versatility demanded by Zao’s rotating and varied display of products, the interior walls of the store are sheathed in a modular display system of back-painted acrylic panels.  The panels are held in place by milled aluminum ‘plugs’ which can be replaced with ‘posts’ that support shelves for folded clothes, design objects or housewares.  Alternatively, the plugs can be replaced with posts that support rods for hanging clothes: face-out or shoulder-out.

The store fixtures were also designed for maximum flexibility.  Fabricated from clear acrylic and sitting on concealed casters, the fixtures allow maximum visibility of the objects on display while also allowing for easy mobility.  The fixtures are lit from below and appear to float across the seamless poured epoxy-resin flooring.

Zao’s façade is a seductive play of transparency and translucency drawing pedestrians into the store interior.  It is fabricated from frameless tempered glass and sheathed in a translucent film.  A fourteen-foot circle was cut out of the film, revealing a clear circle, or -- ‘O’ - the store’s logo.

The gallery and garden space for Zao were designed in conjunction with the Zao retail space.  These spaces are intended to create a space for art exhibits, performances and events.  The architecture that allows this dynamic multi-purpose venue to thrive further enhances the owners’ vision of Zao as a creative laboratory.


Bjorg Magnea


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