- Project Name
- New Wheel Electric Bicycle Shop
- LNAI architecture, Consortium
- Project Types
- Project Scope
- 1,907 sq. feet
- Year Completed
- General Contractor: Johnstone Mcauliffe Construction
- Project Status
2017 Remodeling Design Awards
Commercial Remodeling under $500,000: Grand
Architect Leonard Ng was faced with a real challenge: Take a bland, boxy retail space and, within 60 days on a limited budget, transform it into a bike shop with a strong brand identity linking it to the mother store in downtown San Francisco but with a clean, modern aesthetic all its own.
The client’s brief also include creating four distinct areas for retail, point of sale, workshop, and bike testing/storage, in the shop’s 1,907 square feet—without touching any of the space’s existing structural elements.
A handful of magic dust would not have gone amiss.
Front and center as Ng and his colleagues inspected the shop were a column, dropped beam, and soffit that hid the HVAC ducts and electrical wiring.
“It was a bummer,” he says. It was only when Ng and his colleagues began to address all the issues of branding and physical layout requirements as one problem, rather than a slew of questions to be answered, that clarity emerged.
“The process to find the simple is complicated,” he says.
The idea of framing out the structural elements they couldn’t remove and creating two portals—a nod to the company’s existing logo of two bicycle wheels—was the linchpin to the whole design.
The portal is actually a squaring off of the company’s logo, and the owners loved it, Ng says. The portal, which covers the offending column, beam, and soffit, was built of budget-friendly MDF and painted red, the same color as the original shop’s logo.
“We had a large debate about the use of red, because at some point, there is too much red,” Ng says. Rather than using large swathes of red throughout the shop, he did it in carefully calibrated amounts, like the metal pegboard and bins in the workshop area and the interior of the window frames.
Not only is the portal a commanding design feature and a three-dimensional representation of the logo, it also seamlessly and efficiently creates the four zones the owners specified.
In the sales area, the architect wanted to make what he calls “a memorable retail moment.” He accomplished that without breaking the bank by having a vintage trail map digitally rendered on wallpaper by a local company. The map covers the 20-foot-long back wall from floor to ceiling. It was economical and easy to put up, and it made perfect sense considering the nature of the business, Ng says.
The owners, bike enthusiasts themselves, were keen about the idea and took over the search for just the right trail map to use.
The point-of-sale area is actually inside the larger of the two portals. It’s a simple, open counter of quarter-sawn white oak that triples as sales counter, merchandise display, and Internet bar.
From the workshop side of the portal, the stylized double loop transforms into a single portal, effectively framing the custom white oak slat wall retail display on the other side of the shop.
With a small budget relative to the demands of the project, Ng says, “We had to be strategic about what we spent, so spending on the branding display and where the customer engages made sense.”
The slat wall was customized to allow the owners to hang items of varying sizes, and it gives them the ability to change retail offerings over time. Ng says the random board width isn’t available in an off-the-peg system, and he also built in a few shelves to give the owners even more options for display.
He used white oak in the project for both the quality of the wood and its durability in a retail space, as well as its economy, since it was locally available.
Due to budget limitations, sustainability concerns were met primarily with LED lighting and reuse of materials whenever possible. The remodeling team salvaged a lot of window trim and reused the crummy, patched hardwood floor by using an opaque covering.
“Even with all the constraints, we wanted coherent function and drama,” Ng says. “We limited ourselves in a number of moves, but the moves we did make were purposeful and impactful.”
FROM THE ARCHITECT:
The essence of a bicycle – a double loop – served as the singular idea in designing this project. By inserting a pair of red frames—portals—loops—at the center of the existing space, we were able to accomplish myriad client objectives at once by:
- creating a strong graphic image and brand identity
- organizing the store to meet their desire of having an open-feel of a single space—but also clearly separated into 4 distinct zones
- concealing and reformatting an awkward column, dropped beam and hvac soffit at the center of the space into something elegant and purposeful
- creating a functional armature that sponsors concealed LED lighting, hvac ducting & electrical/data wiring
- re-conceiving the point-of-sale area as display & internet bar (not cash register)
- inventing a powerful 3D analog to their 2D logo