HLW Designs UNIQLO Space

In this last post, the third of a total of three articles focused on an in-depth discussion about the design process resulting in the new UNIQLO North American Headquarters, we will explore more conceptual themes that guided the decision-making process. A critical challenge for HLW was to create an office that reflects the UNIQLO brand, design and culture through a simple, yet universal, aesthetic. The identification of several guiding ideas ensured that the design would maintain cultural consistency with our client’s organization, mission and business objectives.

[The space] should have an ‘I want to work here’ vibe—a place to make, test, play with new ideas.
— Discovery Session, 2013

Internationally Sourced Materials, World-class and Culturally Aware

A key design directive for communicating the UNIQLO’s success through the office space was realized through the creative, high-tech, and often internationally sourced materials selection. The creative choices can be characterized, in general, by the following qualities.

Varied—different textures, colors and gradations, and degrees of hardness and softness

Futuristic—consistent with the UNIQLO “technology, innovation and newness” branding message

Durable—durable treatments and materials are the norm due to continuous wear from the rolling, moving and storage of merchandise

Clean—a space that feels orderly, yet never rigid

Natural—bringing warmth and a sense of comfort to the space

Sensory Design in Architecture

Multi-sensory experiential events are commonplace within the UNIQLO stores. Custom LCD screens projecting high impact advertisements and LED video installations and colored lights compete for your attention within an already visually lush setting of colored and patterned textiles. This is the experience of walking through the stores, but how to capture this energy for the office?  Focus on the inherent opportunities in sensory design in architecture.

High Contrast

The strategy is to go high-contrast—but also contextual. For example, the framework throughout the UNIQLO headquarters is painted black to highlight the exterior SoHo streetscape, as well as the cast-iron architecture. Splashes of UNIQLO red indicate a collaborative zone. Bold geometric patterns on the carpet in the open work areas have the added benefit of improving acoustic performance.

Warm Hues and Soft Surfaces

The strategic use of a warm, natural color palette contributes to the seamlessness of the space, which feels welcoming, while still being modern. For example, the Kinetex carpet’s unique construction and texture complements the exposed red brick. Similarly, a whitewash stain on the flooring gives added warmth.

Gradations and Texture

Tinted grey glass was used throughout the space in lieu of privacy film, which provides degrees of transparency. The felt wrapped columns of differing shades (Light Grey, Dark Grey, Charcoal) are also components of a gradient concept that draws a viewer’s eyes upward toward the full height of the SoHo loft windows. The columns progress from light to dark toward the natural light. Finally, fabric choices, such as those for the reception chairs by Knoll, reverberate with subtle shades of greys, browns, and other neutrals.

Design Innovation for a Global Company

Innovation can take many forms in a space’s design. By creating responsive architecture, we hope to connect with a building’ occupants on a number of levels, from intellectual, to physiological and behavioral, to emotional. This requires innovative solutions for space planning and material choices, as well as strategies for communicating the global sensibility of a highly creative international fashion retailer.

Design innovation for UNIQLO’s new headquarters involved a range of creative solutions. We utilized numerous inventive textiles. For example, the conference rooms have custom lacquered burlap wall panels made by the master crafts people at the Manhattan-based studio Art Space NYC, specialists in architectural art and special finishes. The elegant color blend of the Kasthall carpet in the Executive Lounge was inspired by fine suit fabrics. It is an award-winning, fully recycled product composed of a special polyamide yarn made from fishing nets.

Other creative design solutions included the reception desk, which is made of a beautiful and highly durable fused glass by Galaxy. A touchdown space is incorporated into the desk for visiting vendors. In addition, the HLW designers were inspired by the colorful UNIQLO store lighting. They created for the office pantry a decorative wall piece composed of synthetic polymer. The colored tubes are lit.

A final design innovation for a truly global company—the pantry includes a custom designed glass tile mosaic of the Tokyo Subway. The UNIQLO flagship store in Tokyo is designated with the company’s logo. A fusion of innovative materials, high-quality craftsmanship, and international references, this mosaic is, in so many ways, representative the UNIQLO company.