For whatever reason, creativity seems to thrive under restrictions. The puzzle for Michelle Biggar, principal at the time of McFarlane Green Biggar Architecture + Design (now principal of Office of McFarlane Biggar) was to design an upscale florist’s shop in Vancouver’s newly built Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel. The budget was miniscule; the retail space, all 180 square feet of it, even smaller.
Since Biggar had been responsible for designing the shell of the base building, as well as the hotel’s restaurant, café, and parts of the lobby, she understood the milieu in which the shop would be situated, and knew too that it should complement the hotel environs while still establishing its own unique space.
Its tiny size dictated “just one strong mood with not too many finishes,” Biggar says. So the cubed interior of polished sandstone floor with matching walls forms “an intentionally quiet backdrop that allows the product to stand out,” rather like a jewellery store which lets its glitzy wares do the talking. In the case of the Granville Island Florist, the focus is on floral arrangements. Their display area therefore sits centre stage, on an ingenious, white-laminated plinth comprised of segments that can be easily pulled apart, in Jenga Cube–fashion, and shifted into a multiplicity of options.
The concept, says Biggar, stemmed from the owners’ wish to showcase different themes each week: all black and white flowers, all roses, and so on. Driven by function, the jigsaw-like pieces provide a flexible and refreshing variety of in-store levels and presentations. At times, they can even push out into the lobby for added effect.
The rest of the shop – two vertical display niches, a white-laminated sink/potting stand and back cash desk -– recedes intentionally into the background, punctuated solely by the ruddy relief of a teak half-wall emblazoned with the store’s logo.
As small and quiet as it is, one would find it hard to walk by this little jewel of a retail space without doing a double take. Certainly, the design world appears to have taken notice: Biggar’s simply elegant solution to the puzzle of the petite boutique earned MGB an IDIBC Award of Excellence Gold. cI