Based in Hong Kong, the multi-disciplinary practice LAAB Architects creates exciting and innovative projects. Recognised in this year’s INDE.Awards as winners of The Design Studio category, the work from LAAB architects bridges the gap between art and architecture and always contributes something new to the design landscape.
Point in case is f22 Peninsula, a new shop and gallery that showcases vintage cameras and accouterments opened in February this year in Hong Kong. Named after aperture settings on camera lenses, f22 has been envisaged as a meeting place for collectors and photography connoisseurs and is ideally situated within the iconic Peninsula Hotel on two corners within the Peninsula Arcade. As the second home for the original f22 foto space in Wan Chai, f22 Peninsula is luxurious and bespoke befitting the extraordinary product it sells.
The design of this new retail establishment pays homage to the architecture that surrounds it and brings to life the era of the 1920s, the Art Deco period. This was a time of great change with the birth of Modernism in art and architecture, but importantly, this was also the era that saw the opening of the Peninsula Hotel and the birth of the first Leica camera.
With a 16-metre-long shop window, the exterior becomes a lens to the interior. There is a circular reception desk with brass countertop inspired by the film counter of the Leica I Model A, while overhead a bespoke brass pendant light has been affixed to the ceiling and has been fashioned as a Leica Elmar lens from the late 1920s. In keeping with the Art Deco style, the ceiling, flooring and furniture were made from dark hardwood and crafted with mouldings and brass detailing. Together, the interior presents more as a comfortable and exclusive English private club than a retail store.
Of special interest is the conservation of a broken column (circa1930) that remains from the original architecture and is now encased in a custom-designed glass and timber cabinet. Another feature in the design is the inclusion of a huge ‘Fake Leica’ sculpture by Chinese artist Liao Yibai. The camera art has been one of just a few made as a limited addition, however, this is the only version plated in 24-carat gold leaf.
The floorplate is divided into three zones – the camera gallery, the VIP room and the photo gallery. The camera gallery showcases some of the most rare cameras available today. Products are displayed behind glass and timber custom-made cabinets and lit by ERCO light fittings as if in a museum. The range of cameras is outstanding and there are many from the iconic German brand Leica, as well as Rollei and Hasselblad plus a wide selection of limited edition cameras from around the world. There are also accessories, many handcrafted by artisans in Italy, Japan and the USA.
The VIP area is a place for special customers to relax and spend a more intimate time perusing precious objects. This space has been furnished with a collection of vintage pieces that include a 1920s carved oak bench, a brass chandelier, Thonet armchairs from the 1930s and a contemporary version of the iconic Club 1910 sofa designed by Josef Hoffman. There is also a transformable privacy screen designed to adjust the visibility of the room from the arcade.
In the basement is the photo gallery that is modern and minimalist in design, with white walls, concrete floor and a black-tinted mirror ceiling that complements the contemporary design of the f22 foto space in Wan Chai. The gallery has an open shop front to engage with hotel guests and visitors and is secured each night by a black painted steel shutter gate that reinterpretes traditional Hong Kong craft often found in local shops.
f22 is a special place that caters to a discerning clientele. Celebrating style and substance, the interior design echoes all that a fine vintage camera can provide – history, exquisite design and perfect performance.