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Location: Lagos, Nigeria.
In the beginning of 2013 I was approached by Yegwa and Bibi Ukpo founders of Stranger, a new menswear boutique and micro cafe in the city of Lagos. The space would stock international avant-garde fashion and local designers. Brands featured include Marvielab, Peir Wu, Collateral Concepts, Orange Culture, Post Imperial and archive pieces from Yohji Yamamoto. The space would also host culture related pop up events.
The first condition in our agreement was having a first hand experience of Lagos and its context. And during two weeks I was hosted by Yegwa and Bibi and immersed into Nigerian culture.
During this trip three things were the most striking for me: the light, the traffic jams and the always evolving city. It was not a conscious decision at first but those three elements ended up being the foundation of the whole project.
Most of the retail space in Lagos is either in malls or in detached houses as in Stranger’s case. The space given had all the traditional elements of this kind of construction and we were only allowed to do low impact operations.
The strategy adopted was quite simple: lets dress every element of the space with something and therefore erase the original meaning of the place. Those new parts would operate in different ways : underlining, implementing and echoing.
After some days in Lagos the resolution was giving Stranger two types of light environments, a dark one and a warm one.
A dark environment in order to rest your eyes by controlling the light coming from the windows and using blackboard paint in the ceilings.
A warm light that we achieved painting the three floors high inner courtyard in magenta all the way up. The patio and the light that irradiates ended up being an entity by itself nicknamed The Magenta Room and also an identity element for the store since many of the visitors started taking pictures there and sharing them on social networks.
For a foreigner the constant traffic jams in Lagos could become something radical more than annoying. Truth is that thanks to this experience, that had me re-reading “La autopista del sur” from Cortázar once I got back home, we managed to find all the elements we needed. Traffic barriers that became table trestles or hexagonal interlocking tiles that we saw in huge piles next to the roads. We painted them in black liquid rubber.
The Evolving City:
Lagos is a fast evolving city, in process. Same as the founders of Stranger, always curious about everything. Even though the initial briefing was a luxury menswear boutique, they always made clear that they wanted a space that they could use and accommodate their ideas. Less a showcase and more and an array of apps I understood.
With that in mind we designed all the elements in a very abstract way so they could be easily transformed, displaced or repurposed. Raw materials, shapes and structures. Like the road block table, oversized and with different programs hidden in the inner side of the table tops. The micro-perforated blinds mounted on wheels that regulate the natural light, rearrange the space or serve as projection surface. And the cabinets, inspired by Louise Nevelson’s work, hosting hexagonal blocks that can be used to create displays. In order to tie all this possibilities up to the space, we painted a grid of crosses in the floor that would serve as template.
We used stencils, black and white spray paint, blackboard paint, magenta paint, white paint, white cotton, oiled tropical wood, micro-perforated white aluminum blinds, black aluminum blinds, steel tubes, wheels, road barriers, security lights, projectors, battery powered portable lights, interlocking tiles, mirror, and black liquid rubber.