THE spectacular front-elevation of the De Gran hair salon is designed in rectangles, framing the blue sky above Phnom Penh and inviting a look inside. This minimalist building’s modern Japanese architecture and interior design make an interesting addition to the Cambodian urban landscape.
Reduced to a strict geometry, the building speaks its own language while referencing contemporary Japanese architects such as Fumihiko Maki or Tadao Ando. Combining the symbolic significance of architectural forms with a careful choice of materials, its colour accentuation contrasts with the dominant white.
The striking fact is that the building was designed by De Gran chief executive Jun Kikuchi, a hairstylist by profession. With the support of his friend, Japanese interior designer Suzuki Kuniaki, he realised in Phnom Penh his vision of a self-designed salon. Kikuchi runs four hair salons in Tokyo, but it was only in Cambodia that he could fulfil his dream of designing and building a hair salon of such a scale, opening his salon in February 2009.
The white rendered masonry walls pronounce rectangles as the main geometric figure, except for the guard hut on the sidewalk, which is organically convoluted. The concept for the spacious ground floor of the two-storey building seems to be transparency, while the VIP area on the first floor is screened.
The building's U-shape plan embraces an outside entrance area and a walkway flanked by a brace of water basins. This reception area is reminiscent of the stage-like layout of Khmer temple architecture, but Kuniaki’s intention of using water was for its cooling effect and refreshing character, supporting the transition from outside to in. Two lines of cream leather chairs facing each other in both arms of the building behind full glazed walls emphasise the catwalk-like character of the entrance.
The interior has a remarkable composition: fine black ironworks at the entrance door, black ceramic floor tiles and a reception desk in black marble contrast with the plain white walls. Kikuchi and Kuniaki form accents not only by playing with materials but using a reduced colour scheme: red chairs in a contemporary design at the reception area and light blue curtains along the glazing.
Both floors – the airy working area on the ground floor and the private VIP rooms upstairs – contain simple furnishings. The working equipment is, for a hair salon, greatly reduced, with associations of high technology and aesthetic design: the chairs for shampoo and haircuts are height-adjustable; tools appear when needed from backstage; the mirrors, documenting the haircut, are almost self-supported. Such lighting features or decoration as the chronometer on the first floor and the staircase gives character to the place with clear and sober expression.
Apart from its modern appearance and high-quality finishes, the project could integrate some elements of green architecture. Unfortunately, being unable to source some equipment in Cambodia, Kikuchi chose not to include sustainable architectural features in his design.