‘In just over a year we have succeeded in turning 1650 sq m of storage space into a modern, accessible and welcoming piece of architecture and an unparalleled retail experience,’ explains Johannes Torpe of his eponymous design studio's latest project.
The Danish designer, musician, producer, and former creative director of Bang & Olufsen was tasked with transforming a 1990s industrial building just north of Copenhagen into a retail experience and HQ for Danish cycling agency Argon 18. The new space – dubbed United Cycling Lab & Store – includes a 6m tall product gallery elegantly stacked with accessories and spare parts, a workshop, bike fit-out area, and a training facility. The vast development also houses office facilities, meeting rooms, a canteen, storage facility and an outdoor plaza, geared towards industry meet-ups.
Torpe compares the disparate (yet united) services offered by the United Cycling Lab to a religious institution. ‘All the functions of the facility can be transferred to those of a classic monastery,’ he explains. ‘The showroom is the chapel, the offices are the dorms, the canteen is the refectory, the product gallery is the library, the training facility is the choir and, the workshop is the forge.’
Perhaps this is an allusion to the dedicated, worship-like relationship Argon 18's biking community has to its sport – its client base is largely professional – but more likely, it references the grand scale, and imposing architecture of the space. One wall of the showroom is illuminated in a contemporary take on a stained-glass window, while five bike prototypes are suspended from the ceiling by pantographs that can be lowered (as if from heaven) at the click of a button for inspection. This is clinical sci-fi laboratory, meets ethereal cycling chapel.
A more obvious inspiration, Torpe's overarching design concept draws from the detailed engineering of a carbon fibre bicycle, more specifically, the future-seeking, man-meets-machine-in-perfect-harmony ideal that these frames embody. Argon 18's carbon fibre models are some of the lightest in the world, and they influenced Torpe to choose materials that exude lightness and have an airy yet industrial feeling to them – brushed concrete floors, bright white walls, pale woods, perforated steel.
Creating a sense of design continuity across the site, a grid motif appears throughout, in the graphic wall displays, the bike staging areas, and in the workshop shelving. This rigid grid system pays tribute to the precision of the products, and ensures a modular and scalable retail solution for a future global rollout.
‘It is Argon 18's goal to make the new HQ a place for cycling enthusiasts to cultivate their passion for the sport,' Torpe adds. ‘We have worked together with them to create an architectural concept that supports these objectives’. Through his design discipline, Torpe and his team have made it easy to join Copenhagen's cycling congregation.
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Elly Parsons is the Digital Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees Wallpaper.com and its social platforms. She has been with the brand since 2015 in various roles, spending time as digital writer – specialising in art, technology and contemporary culture – and as deputy digital editor. She was shortlisted for a PPA Award in 2017, has written extensively for many publications, and has contributed to three books. She is a guest lecturer in digital journalism at Goldsmiths University, London, where she also holds a masters degree in creative writing. Now, her main areas of expertise include content strategy, audience engagement, and social media.
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