Lions Den
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Lions Den LA is the design-build of a street wear sneaker boutique in downtown Los Angeles. The 850 SF store-front is a corner unit located in the Central Plaza of Chinatown where a vibrant mix of international tourists, local Asian residents, and Angelino hipsters congregate.

Most footwear retail environments employ an architectural component, the shoe wall, as a means of organizing and displaying footwear. While highly efficient, a typical shoe wall display only registers as product on a pedestal. Here, we aim to privilege the sneaker as a vital building material, cultural attractant, and graphic element. By infusing this sneaker-centric perspective with the necessary ingredients of a successful building skin such as material, geometry, atmosphere, and technology, the shoe wall was re-deployed as a topographic field utilizing texture, light, shadow, and filament to produce a dynamic graphic.

The shoe wall becomes a giant laminar package integrating functionality, architectural effects, and urban movement. Wrapping one side of the long narrow space and spanning floor to ceiling, the shoe wall flows as a continuously curved surface, tracking the movement of passerby’s.

The shoe wall curves along north and west interior walls of the store with a vertical span of 13 ft, floor-to-ceiling. Sectionally, the wall is concave along the bottom 2 ft for lower display shelves, and concave towards back of house as roughly 11 vertical ft. of egg-crate storage. The lower two-foot datum line swerves out into a cash-wrap as if peeling off the shoe wall in a grand parti which resonates at the micro-level of the shoe platform/tongue. At the west end of the shoe wall an entry way provides access to the back of house office and storage space. The eastern end of the wall curves in to reveal a small dressing room tucked neatly behind the display wall with no facets or edges. Across from the shoe wall, along the south store front, lays a twenty-four foot custom hanging rack. The center of the space remains open, punctuated by free floating benches, allowing customers to easily maneuver and examine merchandise along the interior skin from any area of the store.

The wall is composed of CNC milled plywood panels, supported by an egg-crate substructure which doubles as the stores back of house storage. A series of 6 prototypical shoe displays, or tongues, are aggregated across the surface creating variation as they rotate in the x, y, and z directions. The display system’s range of motion is heightened as sneakers flow across the surface in numerous and changing orientations. The tongues protrude from slits which perforate the wall’s surface in varying lengths, angles, and colors to generate a pattern that performs as retail, architectural, and urban registers. LED’s sit behind these slits augmenting the rotational intensities of the field as well as giving the shoe wall a nocturnal life. The integrated LED system generates four different lighting levels across the wall, producing a dynamic gradient of impressions ranging from magnetizing hot spots to faint and delicate glows.

The project pairs digital software with computer aided manufacturing techniques to generate an immersive retail environment while exploring the implications of custom fabrication within an architectural practice. Through the use of software packages like Rhino and CNC milling tools a completely custom kit of parts was generated off site and assembled on location. This level of customization results in a sophisticated store design that creates a unique retail experience on a shoe-string budget.

Project Adviser
Jason Payne

Project Assistant
Trisha Mcnamara

Construction Assistants
Mitsuhiro Komatsu
Justin Eric Williams