LVMH Regional Headquarters Part 1 Project 2002 Melvin Tan National University of Singapore Singapore Singapore The LVMH Regional Headquarters is sited on a park along the busy Orchard Shopping District. Its sculptural form glitters with mystical energy as it lies embedded in the terrain, like an unharnessed jewel.Perhaps LVMH can be deemed as the ‘miner’ who ‘mines’ for these objects of desires. This very notion became the primer that leads throughout the design-process.At ground level, 3 volumes (the primary retail, office, and water sculpture) and 3 excavations (the 2 MRT access, and fissure) compose the setting for the jewel mine and its miners. These also serve as a focus to the existing park… a hub where activities of the elites and common-man coincide. Elites, within their enclosed domain, seem almost sacred, distant and pure, like a jewel, to the common-man exposed outside. The latter is, on the other hand, left to imagine how different the activities are, within the pyramidal volume (the primary retail) and the pyramidal excavation (the 2 MRT access) they are at. Perhaps its like comparing diamonds to sand, both merely compounds of silicon and oxide, yet differing vastly in physical and innate nature.Underground, remnants of the primary retail appear in the form of an inverted pyramid. This intrigues the people around as they go about their mundane routine at the MRT station. Peering into it is like peering into a crystal to find one’s ‘dreams’ and desires in the other realm. Fissures in the ground allowing water and light into the underground spaces hint at the presence of a magical and mystical realm above. Gyrating silhouettes behind translucent glass screens and floors taunt the passive viewer to start day-dreaming about the world beyond.The dialogue between elites and common-man may occur on a horizontal or vertical plane, but at any point in time, one is always watching, the other being watched… one is admiring, the other being admired… one is worshipping, the other being worshipped… one is celebrating, the other being celebrated…The real question is, “Which party is really influencing activities of the other?”.A diamond appears sacred, mystical and pure, as if forged in another time and space. It stirs in us a certain impulse of desire… of admiration… of power… LVMH thus has the role of ‘mining’ these raw impulses into reality… Melvin Tan This is a design for the new regional headquarters for LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy) in Singapore. LVMH is a young conglomerate with rapid growth and has already become a premier company that has core businesses in luxury goods that range from handbags, high fashion clothes to champagne. Like its other competitors- the Gucci Group, PPR, Prada, LVMH is commissioning new stores and corporate buildings to communicate with what their brands are selling – lifestyles. Central to the concerns of LVMH would be the image that the corporate HQ would take on in Asia, apart from that, the building will also be used of as a retail hub for their goods and serve as a venue to launch new products. The bulk of the program therefore is made up of corporate offices, public/show areas, a retail store, and other facilities like café and dining. The project almost explicitly demands research into the latest in building skin technology, media projections and lighting. At the urban level, it will offer opportunities to deal with complex relationships between private/public spaces, and last but not least, it will also demand inquiry into innovative ways to organize work spaces that complement LVMH’s identity.Located at the Orchard MRT(train) station along the most popular shopping street in Singapore, a reversed glass pyramid is the most significant feature in Melvin’s project, which holds the retail and show rooms and at the same time, providing a new roof structure for the MRT station and announcing its entrance. The glass pyramid amalgamates the two disparate images of “glass” and “pyramid” and is “de-familiarized” by turning it upside down, the idea of which was conceived through an analogical connection between high fashion and diamonds. The approach that Melvin took in this project is cognitive representation of knowledge. Unlike other fashion companies, LVMH sells desirable lifestyles, it creates objects of desires. This notion of ‘jewel-mining’ was thus the primer that leads through out the design process. A jewel distinguishes itself as being sparkling and shining. Diamonds and sands are both composed of silicon and oxide, both are made up of the same elements yet appear starkly different from each other in terms of physical and innate value. The amalgam is in fact a “topos of classical poetics, an oxymoron that transcends, manipulates and finally invalidates our stereotypes about representation of knowledge.” (Tzonis. A and Liane Lefaivre) Here, not only is there no conflict between glass and pyramid in the new categorical combination ‘glass pyramid’, but the reversed version of it actually forms a critic to the convention and a challenge towards stereotypes.The duo-amalgam is further explored when the pyramidal form is intentionally to be placed on top of the MRT station. Here, a bold dialogue is built up in a very uncompromising fashion. The idea of a floating ‘diamond’ on top of the public domain is curious enough to attract attention. The pyramidal form also expresses an increased celebration of space from the convergent to the divergent – the climax of one’s desires. By placing it in an inverted manner results in a cantilevering effect that seemingly brings the volume even closer to people around it…as if within reach.Though, the pyramid might be an interesting piece of public relations, the question of monumentality still remains unanswered by the scheme. In its rigidity, the pragmatic minimalisms of its form, the unalterable harshness of its materials, the work is an exclusively spatial object, which excludes the sense or experience of time.