AE28: Inverted Topographical Fins

One architectural element I've noticed in a few retail and dining establishments lately is what I'm calling "inverted topographical fins," which are made from tightly spaced parallel strips of wood that vary from one strip to another to create contours. It's a tactic that can be seen in perpendicular and larger form in Studio Gang's Aqua Tower. Formal gestures like these always take me back to a Shinkenchiku competition from the 1990s, in which the winner reconsidered Philip Johnson's Glass House by making a box of parallel planes of glass where the "rooms" were created by the change in the openings cut in each pane. (A realized project in this vein is the Laminata House.) But divorced from the wider architectural concerns (facade, structure, weather, etc.) of those precedents, the below three projects are free to use the wood to shape space and create a certain ambiance through the contours and varying degrees of transparency, depending on one's orientation to the fins.

[Spar Supermarket in Budapest by LAB5 | Photos: Zsolt Batár | Via Dezeen]

A portion of LAB5's design for Spar Supermarket uses the inverted topographical fins to display wine bottles and "to create a unique atmosphere," as they intended. Some of the fins "curl up" at the wall, allowing the shelving in between the planes to be of a more suitable dimension. The dark structure and systems above the ceiling accentuates the latter's contours, while the lighting creates dimples in the contours in some areas.

[Banq Restaurant in Boston by NADAAA | Photos: John Horner | Via World-Architects]

NADAAA describes the ceiling in the aptly named Banq Restaurant (housed in the old Penny Savings Bank) as "a landscape, undulating in relation to the [mechanical] equipment they conceal overhead." Like Spar, the undulating slats extend to the floor at times, covering columns and walls and making the expression all the more extensive.

[Pastry Shop in Gondomar, Portugal, by Paulo Merlini | Photos: João Morgado]

Architect Paulo Merlini focused on luring people into this pastry shop from outside, thereby focusing on light and the ceiling as the means of doing so. Further he determined that the design should "break the sound waves and refract the light," to creating a pleasing space to be in. The strips of wood "melt" in some areas to resemble cake topping, according to the architect, hopefully spurring the customers to buy some pastries through the association.

Update 01.11: Thanks to an anonymous commenter, here's a much earlier precedent, Isamu Noguchi's lobby design for 666 Fifth Avenue:

Update 01.14: It's worth showing dECOi's OneMain Street (Boston, MA) office refurbishment, thanks to another anonymous comment:

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