A Sacred Space – Aesop Collins Street by Clare Cousins Architects
Robust and luxurious, Aesop Collins Street presents a sensory space of contemplation and immersion in the brand’s offerings. Clare Cousins Architects draws on classical references and artful craftsmanship to cultivate a timeless and peaceful refuge that reinterprets the traditional retail narrative into a gentle, adaptable environment designed to age gracefully.
Drawing on the qualities of civic architecture, this new space for Aesop is as dynamic as the locale it resides within. Reflective of the nuances of the luxury cosmetics brand – offering aromatic products that instil calm while stimulating the senses – the store reflects Aesop’s carefully considered ethos around the sanctity of self and space. Inspired by the nearby State Library of Victoria’s iconic dome reading room and set within the historic Georges Building, the sculpted ceiling is a dramatic presence that nevertheless respects the heritage street façade.
Sheer curtains obscure views of the building’s internal commercial lobby and immediately create the sense of a separate realm. Stained blackbutt joinery frames the perimeter, and products are displayed in a way that resembles a library – on dark timber shelves, situated to just one side. On the other side are two monolithic travertine benches and timber vanities, reminiscent of writing desks, that hold the products available for testing.
Considered interior detailing creates an intimate, comfortable atmosphere that differs from the traditional retail environment. This is reinforced by private ensuites for consultations, comfortable chairs inviting visitors to leaf through the Aesop coffee table book or simply relax and a fragrance armoire that continues the store experience, as visitors may spray themselves with a selected aroma.
Aesop Collins Street also encapsulates the hallmarks of sustainable and responsive design. Durable materials were prioritised and waste materials and offcuts given a new life through innovative methods. Discarded amber glass Aesop bottles that were crushed and repurposed as part of the rendered ceiling and travertine offcuts – sourced throughout the design process from local stone-masons – were recycled to create a unique paved floor.
The design of the store also responds to its context as an adaptable and dynamic venue that realises the space’s civic ambitions. The store can be used for events – for example, to celebrate Midsumma Festival in 2023, the space was transformed into an open, accessible queer library, and LGBTIQ+ literature was gifted and discussed as the space hosted talks and poetry readings.
Clare Cousins Architects aligns Aesop’s considered ethos with the thoughtful craftsmanship of a timeless space. A dynamic store designed to prompt visitors to slow down and appreciate sensory delights, Aesop Collins Street offers a calming environment that eschews the often disposable and trend-focused consumerism of the beauty industry.