By Anuradha K R
Photography: Francois Laliberté, Imagicom; courtesy the architect
Némeau Fish Store in Lévis, Québec City, designed by Ar. Jean de Lessard attempts to recreate the imagery presented by legendary Jules Verne in his novel, ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea’ (1870 A.D).
“The concept, revolving around presenting a new way to shop for fish is akin to a Fish Bar with barmen”, opines the designer, who approached this project from the ‘vintage’ viewpoint of Jules Verne, but through a timeline between ‘today and tomorrow’. “It’s subtle, a little crazy, but fun”, is what he has to say about the store.
The novel depicts scenarios of Captain Nemo, walking the ocean-floor with his guests, while they witness spectacular sights overhead. Owing to refraction of natural light, sunrays penetrating the rolling waves lead to scintillating changes in colour effects and this is precisely what the designer has endeavoured to incorporate in his design.
The sculptural ceiling made of glass, with its prismatic form, attempts to emulate the ‘underwater magic’ narrated in the novel. Conferring the status of ‘defining feature’ to the ceiling, which normally remains low-profile, helps place the store in the not-so-common league. But what delivers the punch - is the fact that it isn’t just a ceiling!
Nautilus, the fictional submarine, led by Captain Nemo had an extraordinary bookcase aboard. Circa 2015, shelves that belie their existence have been integrated into the store’s ceiling, in line with the Bibliotheque look depicted in the novel. In one fluid-motion, the ‘honeycomb ceiling’ transforms itself into an ocean of shelves, maximizing storage volume in the most ingenious way. White and gray ceramic floor-tiling, reminiscent of the slats of hardwood of a boat’s deck, and ethereal lighting complete the show.
If this is about ambience and practicality, the presentation boxes and their layout too deserve credit. Ice-floes displays are randomly articulated around circulation axes, facilitating interactions between customers and staff. The boxes are stylized cooling systems, topped with asymmetric glass cases. Made of Corian, a resistant composite material, low in VOC emissions, they adhere to the standards prescribed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food of Québec.
Best things in life come in small packages, they say. A 430 sq.ft store, offering a journey of the senses is proof enough.