Pipe Dream

A Russian fashion boutique is reimagined using an off-the-shelf material.

For fashionable shoppers in St. Petersburg, the recent renovation and expansion of high-end clothing shop Day & Night represents a transformation as stark as the difference between noon and midnight. In a post-Soviet city originally founded in 1703 that still clings to its tradition of Baroque architecture and quiet historicism, the store’s adventurous landscape—built around an infrastructure of acid green and yellow piping—is a bracing tonic.

The boutique first opened seven years ago at the same site in a sparer space. After a five-month makeover, last spring architects Anton Gorlanov and Alexey Novikov unveiled the revamped “super-structure” design. “We didn’t want to create a typical retail environment of boxy floor, ceiling, and walls,” Gorlanov says. The store sells cutting-edge fashions by leading global designers including A. F. Vandevorst, Ann Demeulemeester, Balenciaga, Dries Van Noten, Martin Margiela, and Yohji Yamamoto in addition to the work of emerging homegrown talents. Therefore the designers created a look akin to that of an art gallery, with architectural elements that would demarcate open zones and perhaps affect the artful look of an installation.

Inserted into the first two floors of the turn-of-the-century building, the tubular structure is composed of 1,700 feet of standard painted pipes each measuring 3.5 inches in diameter. “The network of piping draws customers through the space into a surreal labyrinthine landscape,” Gorlanov says. There are few fixed walls aside from the building envelope, and the pipes almost never make contact with them, adding to the feeling that this is site-specific art dropped into the larger box, not a series of racks supporting commerce. The designers say they were inspired by the looping pattern and acid colors of a computer screen saver. (Indeed the Day & Night Web site—www.day-night.ru—is the visual electronic cousin of the new architectural infrastructure.) In contrast to the main space, some dressing and display areas feature lush draperies, filigreed mirrors, and chairs sprouting horns—a kind of Russian pastiche à la Philippe Starck.

A new glass facade at street level announces the provocative decor to the quiet neighborhood, with the colorful fretwork clearly visible from Kamen-noostrovsky Prospect, the main thoroughfare off of which Day & Night sits. The fluorescent piping is particularly eye-catching when the interior lights at the center of the store are turned off. With vibrant color and form seeming to spill out onto the sidewalk, the boutique boldly makes its presence known both day and night.

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