Friends and Frames optical store
Space for opticians Friends & Frames, located in one of the main pedestrian arteries of Vilnius, invites for an improvised reflection of the public space that once was here. Grounded on the historical courtyard which existed in the location till the Word War II newly created space aims to act as a public space once erased. A container of eyewear collections is inadvertently turned into a space for revision. Layers of the history and futurity here is enriched through the site-specific artworks and perception games.
One of the oldest streets in Vilnius – Vokiečių Street – reminds of a rich multicultural life in the capital city years ago. The citizens and the sightseers of various nationalities, confessions, professions and social status were dwelling here, around densely populated trade and service institutions located on the lower floors. This thoroughfare once full of life and circulation was one of the most damaged areas in the city after the Second World War. Later, with the wave of Soviet modernisation in the sixties, the most affected eastern side of the street, where the new interior is located, was completely rased to the ground during a significant expansion of the street for a highway to Minsk – the urban planning project for the two major transportation arteries through the old town that was never accomplished. While the renovation plans for this area are still in consideration in the city today, its historical urbanistic character remains hidden underneath the Soviet stratum.
Reminiscence of the historical urbanistic image became a foundation for the space design logic. Archival site plan reveals an internal court in the current opticians location, and on the plot nearby – one of the first public city wells. Atrium as a public space, garden and water extraction became a situational inspiration for the spatial decisions – revealing intrinsic properties of the space and blending with its functional and symbolical layers. The sensation of a public space is realized through the maximal aperture of the storefront windows and the reflection of historical vertical of the open sky. The inherited elements of the garden and water are interpreted through a new insert – a central blue mass with an independent ecosystem capturing the spiral spacetime flow. Revealed layers of the original construction are kept untouched. Their expressive surfaces are yet another reading of the material language of time.
The clarity of spatial design is maximised. New precise layers of optical and optometric design elements integrate into created atmosphere by contrast. The irregularities of the plan configuration are neutralised by two mirrored cuts. The central area is dedicated for the perimeter display of the frames collection. The central hovering plane links all the furniture and functions as a plug-in object. It is the only static object in the central space, which levitates over the mirror base. The side space on the left, at the end of the room, is programed as an insert shell for the infrastructure. It works as a dual spatial element hosting optometric space and the archive.
An aesthetic position derives from the need. The surfaces in the premises were only touched where it was necessary in order to put the venue in service. All these touches-incluses counteract with the existing language. They are distinguished from historically worn out and restored surfaces. The floor heating is hidden under the layers of polished and artistically worked concrete with a thick layer of translucent epoxy resin. This reflects the overall material ethics of the interior: least possible treatment and raw materials. Aesthetics becomes evident through the basic concepts, not on the contrary. Consciously reassessed term of luxury is taking shape in the light of nowadays realities – in the context of accelerating consumer culture and planetary processes of materiality. It is attentive to the situation – naming the valuable features and their relationship with the newly created demands while leaving the central space for multitude of meanings. However visitors are to situate themselves vis-á-vis to the space and define their own attitudes.
Furniture objects are dynamic, designed for a flexible function with constantly changing coordinates. In the regime of an empty space they completely fill in the lower space under the central hovering plane turning it into a volumetric object.
An intention to reject clearly expressed till point, and so to minimize customer–shop assistant role plays was embedded in the furniture functions. Materials of newly designed furniture pieces, mostly timber and concrete dust, are kept rough, without additional overworking. Readymade furniture is a part of circular economy. Some design elements are specially created by artists for the space.
Central rock and its embedded ecosystem is a result of a human hand and digitally programmed language. Its eastern, southern and western slopes are covered in alternating combinations of gentle and harsh climate flora. The northern slope has no species. This central element paradoxically evokes fading and emerging futures. It is kept undefined and therefore present for the impressions of the visitors eye.
The experience of the space is determined by a few major ocularcentric principles:
Firstly – unhidden materials and processes are exposed to the public eye in different scales. From the detail to the largest elements – translucent plastic elements cover the endings of the metal holding profile of the glass shelves, so the nature of the detail remains seen-through; original remains of the internal structures stay uncovered by plasterboard to expose the transparency of material gestures established through time; infrastructural inset, optometric space and the archive are programmed are programmed all together as accessible to the gaze of every passer-by – the threshold is gently marked only by the curves of pleated reflective fabric. An open-ended nature is imposed on all spatial processes. Every spatial elements is part of one grammar.
Secondly – optical games guide the visitor within the space. Mirrored windowsill transfers the rays of sunshine onto metallic ceiling thus reintroducing the historic image of the sky; spatial configurations of unfixed mirrored furniture elements take part in the ongoing creation of otherwise impossible visual junctions – nearly a labyrinth of mirrored corridors; and the ever-present central rock, that resembles the essence of metallic water, with automatically controlled natural ecosystem, takes part in the new reality without yet expressed notions.