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Chinese puzzle.

Minimal, magical, mysterious, this new shop for an adventurous clothing company in Toronto uses understatement to entice.

In 1996, Johnson Chou set up and designed an art gallery and library called Archive. Representing over 500 artists from Toronto and Montreal, the organization exhibited their works and established a database for prospective buyers. The inventive elegance of the place and its popular success brought in commissions and, in 1999, Chou established his own practice. Since then, the practice has embarked on graphic and product design as well as (largely interior) architecture.

Chou's schemes are characterized by abstraction and graceful manipulation of space. His work is informed by an appreciation of traditional Chinese gardens -- the layering employed by their designers, their use of metaphor and creation of narrative through movement. Influences from another direction, from Russian Constructivism, can be detected in moving components, in pivoting surfaces and objects barely suspended.

All these are present in design of a new clothing store, TNT, in Hazelton Lanes, Toronto's smart shopping centre in Yorkville Avenue. It consists of three interlinked departments -- men, women and underwear -- each with their own identity but aesthetically part of the same family. TNT Women, fitted into a triangular plan, is the largest of them, and the store's flagship.

The hypotenuse arm of the triangle gives onto the centre's mall. In the shop windows that line it, screens of frosted glass provide a backdrop for mannequins. Inside, you are confronted by what seems to be a gallery; a sweep of diaphanous white space 10ft high and divided along one inner edge into translucent glass alcoves. In them, clothes are displayed on stainless-steel rails and cantilevered adjustable shelves. Floating off the surface of one frosted glass wall of each alcove, apparently barely attached, is a pivoting plane of mirror glass, counter-balanced and spring tensioned, and invisibly fixed to a square column on the other side of the glass. A refined piece of engineering (and development of a moving table and wall at Archive), the plane of glass is a mirror when upright and a reflective table when swung into a horizontal position.
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Title Annotation:TNT store in Toronto, Canada
Publication:The Architectural Review
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Apr 1, 2001
Words:350
Previous Article:Spanish guile.
Next Article:ARTISTS' RETREAT.
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