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Computer Carves Cavernous Store Interior. ‘We started thinking about a sort of elastic ceiling, being pulled down by the weight of various objects,’ says Francesco Gatti, director of 3Gatti architecture, on his firm’s latest adventure in retail for fashion label SND in Chongqing, China. The final result is a dreamlike, undulating landscape of hovering elements – over 10,000 of them, and each one unique in shape. It’s a feat that owes much to the wonders of modern technology. ‘We used a software programme to simulate the physics of real materials,’ explains Gatti. The computer calculated the sinuous, cave-like lines of the interior and the size and shapes of the 10,000-plus elements needed to create it. The resulting file allowed contractors to cut the huge number of pieces by machine in record time. ‘Thank God for technology, it helped both designers and contractors,’ says Gatti.

The material used to sculpt the suspended ceiling was determined by fire regulations: a very thin white translucent fiberglass which, although chosen for its fire resistance rather than its visual impact, enhanced the design with its reflective quality. The individual pieces are mounted on parallel bars by means of holes which fit onto rows of nails, allowing easy removal and replacement. Mirrors amplify the ethereal effect and maximise the compact floor area, while the rest of the space is simplicity itself: recycled timber for floor and walls and simple grey felt cubes for furniture, cash desk and product displays. Gatti points out that the mirrors and the swoopingly low curves of the ceiling create the kind of ‘uncomfortable’ space he likes – ‘it challenges visitors, wakes them up – like walking in a forest. I think city life should be more like nature.’

Design by Francesco Gatti / 3GATTI

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