Oobiq is an architecture practice based in Hong Kong, founded by Italian architects Giambattista Burdo and Samuele Martelli. With offices in Tehran and Florence, Oobiq is a good example of a success built on very particular new markets in the Middle and Far East.
With architectural backgrounds specialised in the restoration and maintenance of historical buildings, there is perhaps a certain irony that much of Oobiq’s success has been in translating historically-inspired vernaculars to the extremely new buildings and centres growing out of new private wealth in countries like China. If the cliché that a number of these rather recent market economies have a penchant for overt luxury and conspicuous consumption is not entirely founded, then perhaps we can trace a certain dramatic flair in Oobiq’s particular style for luxury boutiques and clubs. The context and materials may be highly contemporary but there is nonetheless a certain grand drama or hyperbolic gesture within the work of Burdo and Martelli that does relate to the wedding cake grandeur of historic Italian villas.
In their designs for the upmarket bar-club Drop in shanghai, these historic references are very much in evidence, from the crystal chandeliers and Chesterfield-style banquets to clever cut-out metal work on the canopy above the bar allowing light to escape in an Art Deco geometric pattern. The feeling is very much a melange of Shanghai’s renowned Art Deco of the decadent 1930’s and a nineteenth century gentlemen’s’ club. In fact the building even offers a pared down version of Georgian neo-classicism as its façade and endless replications of old master paintings.
But, the maximalist approach is very much in evidence in Oobiq’s design for the new Alla Scala flagship store in Shenzen. Once the poor cousin just to the north of Hong Kong, Shenzen has grown from almost provincial obscurity into one of the most important –and richest- cities in China’s thrust into free market economics. It has a reputation for wanting to show off its wealth. Oobiq’s design for the flagship store selling European fashion in one of the high-end urban shopping malls that characterise much of Asia’s mode for bringing luxury fashion into urban centres undoubtedly obliges.
The Alla Scala design is immediately and overtly a reworking of a Pop Art aesthetic. The combination of that distinctive apple green and metallic finishes effortlessly brings the heyday of Carnaby Street or the Kings Road in the swinging sixties to mind. Display stands and other furniture and decorative elements takes on the trippy, organic shapes definitive of the era. But, for all of its retro allusions, this is vehemently bigger and bolder than anything from the original period. With an entire crop of white plastic bubble chairs atop a sweeping staircase leading up to an expansive mezzanine floor, this is a far cry from the poky London interiors of the original aesthetic.
One of the possibilities of the budgets of the new Asian markets, it seems, is that an even an iconic history can be recreated as bigger and bolder.