You might have noticed PAM Store Melbourne got a new outfit and doubled in size. Courtesy of old friends, neighbours and endlessly inspiring architecture studio Sibling, the refit and renovation happily disrupts how we assume a traditional retail space should function. Here, we get a link of things fundamental to PAM like human connection, curiosity, collaboration, as well as Sibling’s unique instinct to speak to social needs within spaces and make them actually engaging. To get to the bottom of the build, we had a chat with Sibling founder and director Nicholas Braun who talks concrete, mirrors and memory.
Hi Nick! Sibling and PAM have been mates for a long time. How far back does it go?
For the last 8 years we have been lucky enough to work in the same building as PAM — this has meant constantly popping in on the way up and down from our offices to see what amazing things are floating about in the shop. Architects often have the stereotype of being dressed in head-to-toe black … not us, we are all often dressed in head-to-toe PAM. Sometimes we’ll arrive at work and find that we are twinning in a PAM look with someone else in the office.
Going back way before this, Sibling Director Amelia Borg worked with PAM in their shop while she was studying architecture (back when it was called Someday) many, many moons ago. She got to witness very closely the force of nature that is PAM. What was very special about that time, and something that has carried through to today, is that there is always such a strong community of people around PAM. They have always been magnets for incredible people, whether it be through the many exhibitions, dance parties, pizza parties or communal bike rides. They create a community, people gather and are encouraged to look at the world sideways together.
And how have you seen the brand, and Misha and Shauna behind it, evolve?
PAM has always been such a unique and special mixture of things — unlike any other brand — because there is nobody like Misha and Shauna! It is always great to see how their constant and evolving passions influence their collections over time: music, bike riding, fungi, nature, cooking, frogs!
Going back to the idea of community, it has also been great to see how Misha and Shauna include and build on their community through the many collaborations they have done; books, music, ceramics, jewellery, rugs. It’s so incredibly diverse, and the physical shops are a kind of container for these ideas and the community around it.
What was it that you wanted to do with the space? What was most important from a Sibling perspective?
The brief was all about expanding the space and spatial experiences that occur within the store, creating zones and spaces for different retail experiences to occur. We really wanted to compress the entry and bring a strong visual language to this area and to supplement this with moving and still images that represent the artworks made by PAM and their collaborators, which can be continually updated and rotated.
Further to this the base palette of the store was deliberately calm and neutral to ensure that the physical objects, clothes and artworks come alive within the space. Textures and pops of colours are changed with every season.
And from a PAM perspective, were there any hard no’s or yes’s? What was your guidance?
The design process from the outset was a collaboration. I don’t think there were any situations where we really had to get anyone across the line, and the process was a deliberate back and forth between PAM and Sibling — lots of design workshops and site meetings to get the processes, materials, and spaces feeling right for a distinctly PAM experience.
I wanna talk about the large windows and the revealing of the sky. Sometimes it’s about what’s not there in a build — similarly you create this illusion of nothingness with many mirrored columns… I don’t have a question here but can we riff on it?
The spaces within Curtin House are unique with amazing city views from certain angles so bringing the city into the space felt like the right move, along with lots of lovely northern sunlight and sky vistas.
The use of mirror within Sibling design is a common tool and spatial strategy we employ, as mirrors both expand the space and make it disappear within the one physical move. The mirror was also employed to create a crisp and contemporary material that contrasts with the more organic and textured surfaces throughout the space.
Let’s talk about the central counter. Whose idea was it?
We started the whole design process by employing lots of different spatial arrangements to see how the space could best work, and the central column kept getting in the way! So by making it part of a central sculptural feature we liked how this helped to split up the space, but also created a central focus, while still allowing views beyond it. Interestingly this is a similar location to where the counter once lived in the Someday store, so it is also a nod to this spatial heritage.
What impact do you reckon this feature has? I think it really could change the relationship between customer and shop keep. There is a dance that we do in a shop, this changes the choreography a bit…
We like to think the central elements creates a positive feature within the space, it both provides a gravity point once you enter the store with someone actively there waiting to welcome you, and a functional space that allows for wide range of different uses to occur including, point of sale, a bar, and a DJ station to name a few. This provides the store with a distinctly active centre and social zone.
There are some themes from the old shop that carried through, why were they important to keep?
Many of the concrete elements, and particularly the racks within the existing space, were artworks that Misha made. We really wanted to keep these and work with this language within the new space. This allowed for a multiplication of these concrete elements to pop up throughout the store in new ways, in particular within the large new display unit that the reveals itself once you enter the store, and the furniture that sits outside the changerooms, which again, Misha made in conjunction with our steel fabricator so we really liked this lineage and layering of time within the space. It's new, yet it's familiar.
And then, can you walk us through some of the little details that are new, that perhaps we can’t spot quickly in photographs?
The curtains that make up the change room provide a super graphic of PAM fabrics and design within the space, and again can be updated and refreshed overtime. The mirrored door into the store room also hides itself like a hidden cave entrance, and the brass material from the racks is followed through onto flat surfaces throughout the store.
Finally, where is your favourite corner of the store and why?
We really like the entry into the space as you are not sure what to expect when you turn the corner. The whole store reveals itself, the visual and aural senses really come alive at this moment, with music and moving image creating a new arrival experience with every visit.
P.A.M. Store Melbourne
Level 3 Curtin House
252 Swanston St