6A Architects

Design Week award winner 2002 in the retail environments category and D&AD 2002 silver winner: Oki-Ni

Although architects Tom Emerson, Lee Marsden and Steph Macdonald set up 6A Architects only 18 months ago, they have been working together in various guises since their college days. They have only completed one public job, clothing store Oki-Ni, but if the attention it has attracted is anything to go by, this trio is worth watching.

The project was won in a limited competitive pitch. ‘It was fantastic,’ says Emerson. ‘We had no real experience, but since the client wanted something totally new, this fact probably worked in our favour’. In the jaded world of fashion retail, 6A has created a witty interior that reflects the brand’s sensibilities and attracts customers by seeking a more original response than the usual tried and tested fit-out. ‘We were at college during the explosion of minimal interiors, and that was very much the staple – retail hadn’t moved on since the first Joseph shop,’ says Emerson. The finished space is more ambiguous than the standard shop or gallery. ‘It’s more than just a warm-up for a purchase – it’s a place where people like to hang around,’ he adds.

With a brief nod towards Rem Koolhaas’ [interiors for Prada] – ‘although our budget was much more modest than his [with Prada]’ – the project developed out of 6A’s research into the issues behind the social side of retail and the relationships between culture, commerce and leisure, Emerson adds.

Still keeping them busy since its completion, Oki-Ni concessions have sprung up in department stores in Leeds, Nottingham and Glasgow. The client now hopes to open further concessions in Japan and Europe, where über-trendy Paris-based store Colette has expressed an interest.

A good relationship with the contractor that built Oki-Ni has led to another job: designing his house, and 6A is also working on other residential schemes for producers in the music industry.

Other work soon to take off is the conversion of an industrial space in London to house a music venue with its own gallery and performance space. The group has also been shortlisted for a large extension and refurbishment of a building in Spitalfields for a performance art centre.

On a smaller scale, 6A is also involved with product design, and has already completed a light fitting, which was used for the Almeida Theatre in Kings Cross, a door knob and a ruler.

A continued interest in experimentation has led to the group’s involvement in a loosely woven creative collective that connects artists, designers and musicians. Recent collaborations include Tomato and sculptor Richard Wentworth.

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