© Jaime rrio

Roji Salon // Craig Tan Architects

Canberra, Australia

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Evoking a journey of renewal, the Roji Salon is a crafted boutique salon skilfully integrated into the existing fabric of the adjoining Hotel Hotel in the NewActon Nishi Development in Canberra. Inspired by the Japanese tea ceremony, the design invites the user to live in the moment, by awakening the senses and evoking a heightened connection to nature.An innovative use of stains in counterpoint with exposed timber finishes achieve a transition in materiality, and combined with the employment of contrasting lighting techniques serve to activate the Client’s senses as they are immersed in the salon ritual.The key brief inspiration behind the Client’s brief was to create a salon that reflected the philosophies embodied in the adjoining multi-award winning NewActon Nishi Development and the Aveda range of products.

© Jaime rrio

© Jaime rrio

This included connection to nature, sustainability, and the use of organic ingredients and natural materials.It was important to maintain the existing clientele and attract a new young and fresh client from Acton and beyond. The clientele would ideally be well travelled men & women with taste and style. They would have a relaxed sophistication and be from a mid to high end market.The salon brief consisted of a entry / styling area, and basin zone.

© Jaime rrio

© Jaime rrio

The basin zone, where the clients had their hair washed was to be a quiet and tranquil zone to promote a sense of relaxation.

Contextually, the challenge was to integrate Roji Salon into the surrounding award winning Hotel Hotel fitout by March Studio. To the main entry, the tenancy was bounded by a stacked timber screen wall and massive black steel gate.

© Jaime rrio

© Jaime rrio

Whilst to the airlock, the tenancy was faced with an existing black steel metal wall with glass marbles. The swing of the existing steel gate swept out approximately a quarter of the tenancy when opening, and required an innovative solution to reclaim this space. Finally, the Client asked for a suggestion of a brand name for the Salon.Embracing the metaphor of the traditional ‘roji’ path leading to the teahouse in the Japanese tea ceremony, which marks the separation between the everyday world and the spiritual retreat, this design celebrates the sense of journey and renewal associated with the salon ritual.Roji Salon aims to tap into a timeless sense of connection to nature and the senses, by inviting the user to live within the moment.

© Jaime rrio

© Jaime rrio

The innovative use of stains to achieve a materiality transition, and contrasting lighting techniques, serve to activate the Client’s senses as they journey to a place of renewal. Entered from the Hotel Hotel lounge, the design is conceived of as a transitional journey to awaken the Client’s senses through strategic introduction of raw materials and natural lighting.

© Jaime rrio

© Jaime rrio

This is achieved over 3 key zones. The interstitial, dark stained OSB entry zone, defined by the large swing of the existing steel gate by March Studio, contains the dark stained forms of the kitchenette and pivoting reception desk. This flows into the artificially lit styling area, defined by a soft grey stained plywood wall and ceiling wrap with expressed ribs.

© Jaime rrio

© Jaime rrio

Spotted gum accents at the styling benches, light and mirror reveals, highlight the points of interaction. The final space is the enclosed cork lined basin area, animated by natural sunlight and a contemplative view onto external landscaped planter beds. Portholes in the cork wall, reveal the existing steel and glass marble wall by March Studio.Back of house spaces are concealed within a panelised natural plywood box with expressed display boxes.

© Jaime rrio

© Jaime rrio

Nested within the styling area, this delineates the threshold between the styling and basin areas. Beyond the tenancy, the fixed glass shopfront to the Hotel Hotel airlock offers inviting glimpses within. Expressed shelves on the corner of the nested back of house volume provide a visual ‘sculptural pivot’ to choreograph an approach sequence progressing from the initial framed glimpse from the airlock to a visual re-encounter at the entry.

© Jaime rrio

© Jaime rrio

Combining this with integration of the existing steel gate, timber lattice and glass marble steel wall reflects a commitment to engaging the social and communal aspects of the surrounding environment. Skilful co-ordination with consultants overcame restricted drainage outlets, using concealed water pumps, and facilitated realisation of the innovative pivoting reception desk and the integrated brand identity.When the owner of the salon, Jason Hartwig, first approached us, he was unsure of whether he had chosen the right architect.

© Jaime rrio

© Jaime rrio

In our first meeting, discussing the brief, and sharing our philosophies, it became evident that we shared a similar outlook to life.Jason was taken by our interest in harmonious and holistic design, which was inspired by sacred spaces, and featured a fascination in the Japanese Tea Ceremony.The design ended up alluding to the journey to the retreat.

© Jaime rrio

© Jaime rrio

The analogy of the ‘roji’ path to the traditional Japanese tea house, as the threshold between the everyday world and the retreat was the concept for the salon design. Jason loved this so much, that it was adopted as the name of the Salon. In a wonderful coincidence, when Jason later purchased a traditional Japanese metal teapot for the salon, he later discovered to his surprise that it too was branded with the name ‘Roji’!!Before starting my practice, I was privileged to be the project architect of the NewActon Nishi precinct for Fender Katsalidis architects.

© Jaime rrio

© Jaime rrio

Having a heavy involvement in the design and delivery of the larger development that housed the Roji Salon tenancy, gave me a holistic insight into how Roji Salon would add to the Hotel Hotel story. With such an intimate understanding of the building concept, it was fundamental to integrate the salon into the context by allowing the experience of the salon to expand beyond its boundaries.

Framed views of the expressed shelves on the corner of the back of house volume from the hotel airlock and main entry, act as a visual ‘sculptural pivot’ to choreograph an approach journey commencing from the hotel airlock display around to the main entry, allowing the salon experience to emanate into the surrounding context.

The bespoke point of sale unit, pivoting on a support pole, integrates elegantly with the existing steel gate by March Studio, whilst maximising space in the tenancy.

© Jaime rrio

© Jaime rrio

We received advice from local architectural hinge expert, Howard Styles, who gave invaluable advice on realising the pivoting post, whilst maintaining the power supply to the reception joinery.

To respect March Studio’s existing black steel wall with glass marbles, we used the small portholes to reveal the existing fabric. At night, the trace of the portholes reveals glow on the airlock side, and reflect a subtle dialogue with the existing context.

Transcending design fashions, Roji Salon aims to invite the user to live within the moment by providing a timeless connection to nature and activation of the senses.

© Jaime rrio

© Jaime rrio

The skilful use of stains to achieve a materiality transition, and contrasting lighting techniques, serve to revive the Client’s senses as they retreat further from the everyday world. The fitout design is developed to choreograph this experiential narrative, which serves to reintroduce a sense of the sacred back into the salon experience.

Fundamental to the Roji Salon brief was expressing the sustainable principles of the Client’s practices and hair products, and that of the NewActon Nishi Development.

© Jaime rrio

© Jaime rrio

On a social level, the design establishes a dialogue with the Nishi and Hotel Hotel precinct, to reinforce the tenets of social and culturally sustainable spaces realised through use of highly crafted spaces and materials.Environmentally, the design seeks to amplify the experience of nature and awaken the senses. The prevailing NewActon Nishi commitment to sustainability informed the extensive use of renewable low grade plywood, pine, cork, and select Australian hardwoods, combined with the use of sustainable water based stains and sealers.

© Jaime rrio

© Jaime rrio

Lighting was designed to achieve ample working levels, whilst optimising use of energy efficient LED and fluorescent sources.The elegant and integrated nature of the tenancy, was designed to create an economically functional and enduring design that would transcend mere design fashions and embed itself into the consciousness of the local demographic.Photographer: Jaime Diaz-Berrio (@crosshat.ch).

© Jaime rrio

© Jaime rrio

Roji Salon Gallery

© Darren Bradley

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