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TONS: a cutting edge fashion store with an interior to match

Project name:
Architecture firm:
5935 Baum Boulevard, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Ekaterina Izmestieva, Alexandra Ribar
Principal architect:
Design team:
Supervision: brnz bureau; Lighting: Natalia Markevich; Art: Sasha Brodsky
Interior design:
Built area:
400 m²
Site area:
Design year:
Completion year:
Civil engineer:
Structural engineer:
Environmental & MEP:
Natalia Markevich
Brnz Bureau
Tools used:
Rhinoceros 3D, SketchUp, AutoCAD, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, Inkscape
Canvas fabric, tiles, mirrors, white paint, metal profiles, ceiling piece: cans by House of Cans Inc.
Commercial › Store

An international team of architects designed a playground for modern sartorialists where high-end fashion meets art and design. Tons is located in East Liberty and the building itself is a two-story mansion with moderate facade embellishments that used to be an atelier. Inside, is a spacious and light-filled interior that now hosts a multifunctional venue designed to meet the needs of a modern-day sartorialist equally interested in fashion, art, and culture.

NWDS, an international team of architects, when designing the concept store’s interior, staked on light play and complex features created with mundane and raw materials: glass, hollow bricks, white paint, hand-painted textile, plastic, and cellophane. The method of putting the interior together was turning the future concept-store space into a playground for designers and artists working on the project. There was a lot of spontaneity and many design decisions taken on site: some surfaces were uncovered and left in an unfinished state, and some were splashed with white paint.

The ceiling of the entry space is embellished with tin cans: an element that is crossbred between an interior piece and a mockup art installation. Sasha Brodsky's large-scale works dangle from the ceiling, creating an eccentric tapestry-like display. An interior comprising modest materials is a backdrop for high-end Italian furniture pieces, a collection carefully curated by the NWDS team. All the pieces represent a connection between design, architecture, art, and fashion.

Paradoxical Hi Tech armchair by Piero Lissoni, both archetypal and futuristic with its austere silhouette and steel mesh upholstery. Mate chair by (a+b) dominoni, quaquaro blurs the line between a furniture piece and an interior sculpture. Glass items by Glas Italia pay tribute to the high postmodernism and creative genius of Anish Kapoor.

There is also the Wiggle Stool, a cult article designed by Frank Gehry for Vitra, composed of pressed cardboard, and a Load-it shelves system by Wolfgang Tonk (Porro) made of paper-thin but highly resistant steel shits. And, rhyming with the subversive undercurrents of contemporary fashion, expensive garments populate the rails purchased at Home Depot.

The lines between fashion, design, art, and architecture are not the only ones getting blurred. Inside Tons, the client space and the workspace are blended. Buyers and managers have their work desks right next to the sale rails on the first floor and store visitors are welcome to take a peek at the fashion photo shoot happening right there at Tons. There are fashion and design books you can read and the whole store feels like a community space as much as it feels like high-end fashion retail.

About NWDS

Established in 2013 and comprising designers, architects, curators, educators and researchers, as well as one philosopher, from cities spanning the world — New York, Tbilisi, Moscow, Paris, Berlin, Yerevan, Lisbon, Dubai — NWDS is preoccupied with unravelling the complexities of working with space and crafting a form of architecture that encompasses multiple approaches, viewpoints and disciplines, including art, fashion and design.

The NWDS team benefits greatly from having a majority of female architects who possess a keen attention to detail, sensitivity to the sensual aspects of architecture (such as textures, colours, tactile sensations, and spatial experiences), and the ability to integrate architecture with other personal and professional interests, such as art, design, and fashion. It helps create future spaces (without relying heavily on the futuristic aesthetics that tend to rapidly go out of fashion) with no rigid functional divisions; playful and airy ones, where the lines between architecture and art are slightly blurred and where the visitor’s mind easily finds its way back to its innate imagination.

About TONS

TONS is a high-fashion brick-and-mortar and e-commerce shopping destination located in Pittsburgh, PA. Mixing architecture, fashion, beauty, lifestyle and much more – TONS provides a unique, detailed, and immersive experience that offers luxury items across a range of price points. Stockists include some of the most coveted labels in the fashion space, such as: Acne, Jil Sander, Marni, Raf Simons, Maison Margiela, Yohji Yamamoto, and Vetements alongside contemporary labels like Coperni, Otto Linger, Isa Boulder, KNWLS,, mixed with heavy streetwear names like Mastermind and Visvim The spacious two-story, light-filled multifunctional venue is designed to meet the needs of a modern-day sartorialist equally interested in fashion, art, and culture.

By Liliana Alvarez

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