Chongqing’s hidden factories inform interiors of Harmay beauty store

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Conveyor belts and cog-like display stands appear within this¬†beauty store in Chongqing, China, designed by AIM Architecture, which takes cues from the city’s underground network of factories.

Harmay is located at the heart of Chongqing inside a former shopping mall, with its entrance set below street level.

A skylight punctures the ceiling of Harmay’s Chongqing store

“The store is located underneath a large plaza with a multitude of steps going down into it,” explained Shanghai practice AIM Architecture.

“So, to work with this unique spatial setting, we explored typologies of underground structures within the local context.”

Products are displayed on conveyor belts, creating a factory-like setting

A particular source of inspiration was the hundreds of bomb shelters that can be found beneath Chongqing, which were used to hide from Japanese air raids during world war two but have now been widely converted into shops, eateries and small-scale factories

To imitate the enclosed feeling of these shelters, the practice used gypsum panels to form a dropped ceiling within the store, simultaneously concealing its exposed service ducts.

These boards were also used to clad the store’s facade and have all been rendered in a brick-red hue on the interior.

Some display stands were made to look like generators

Stainless steel was used to create a series of industrial-style display fixtures, nodding to the factories that now inhabit some of the shelters.

This includes a long conveyor belt that snakes throughout the store’s main room with small grey crates placed at intervals along its surface, each containing different beauty products.

Other stands look similar to machine cogs

In the store’s smaller peripheral rooms, products are showcased on gridded steel shelves and stands that were designed to look like generators or oversized machinery cogs.

Simple strip lights were hung from the ceiling and a skylight was installed so that shoppers can look upwards to the outdoors, further enhancing the feeling of being underground.

Gridded steel shelves were also been added to the store

AIM Architecture has designed a number of locations for beauty retailer Harmay, including an apothecary-style store in Hong Kong, and another in Hangzhou that resembles a 1970s office.

This branch in Chongqing is shortlisted in the large retail interior category of the 2023 Dezeen Awards.

Here, it is competing against other projects such as the Super Seed shop by FOG Architecture, which features more than 100 moving display boxes, and Kooo Architects’ Freitag store, which occupies an old textile factory.

The photography is by Wen Studio. 

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