Boffo Formachetti

New York | Tribeca | 1480 sf | Competition - Retail

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BOFFO Building Fashion is a program pairing young architects with independent designers to collaborate on pop-up retail spaces. In 2011, the space was 1500 sq.ft. interior in Tribeca and the designer was Nicola Formichetti.

Nicola Formichetti's aesthetic terrain is characterized by experimentation with ambiguities. His creations alternate between concealment and exposition, classic and avant-garde, baroque and cartoonish. Our proposal, FABRICation, builds on the idea of ambiguity and aims at creating a fantasy and superhuman experience consisting of exaggerated organic shapes frozen in movement across the room.

These shapes are formed from a material called Concrete Cloth which is currently used for emergency shelters in developing countries. The Concrete Cloth is a flexible cement impregnated fabric that hardens on hydration to form a thin, durable water and fire proof concrete layer. The sinuous silhouettes are achieved by an inflation method consisting of high-volume fans blowing 15,000 CFM of steady constant air flow; a force strong enough to maintain the Cloth in position before and during hydration until it has completely set over a 24 hour setting period. A scaffolding structure is built in place before inflation to strategically constrain the Cloth and to support its increased weight during and after hydration. The wind-blown movement captured by the Cloth evokes romantic whimsy but has the effect of the phantasmagoric, similarly to the bulbous veils worn by Formichetti's models. When in the room, the visitor is presented with a physical object of familiar function but containing ambiguities of materiality and construction: the optical appearance of what is usually soft to the touch collides against the tactile perception and information which comes when touching the Cloth.

The plan layout of the billowy Cloth allows to tell different stories and create various scenarios: an intimate vitrine area by the entry and changing rooms along the path, while clothing displays are occasionally engulfed in the Cloth. Wireless battery up lighters and high-def ceiling-mounted projectors take FABRICation to a whole new level of interweaving distortions and can suddenly turn the room into a natural garden, a digital space or a baroque/ punk-rock world. After the exhibition, the Cloth can easily be cut apart using angle grinders or sledgehammers to crack the material so it can be folded down. It is disposed of in the same manner as traditional concrete products and can be recycled.