Back at the beginning of July KEF opened their first Music Gallery in Central, a stunning spatial experience merging music, art and design.
Being a renowned British manufacturer of premium audio products who stand for engineering integrity, design innovation and acoustic quality, KEF wanted to go all out for their Hong Kong flagship and make it a manifestation of their brand and these values. As an overture for the brand, the launch of the showroom represents an important milestone for their development and expansion in Asia, so they collaborated with Conran and Partners, a renowned British design studio to create a space that would be memorable and distinctive.
Being a design-driven brand who have worked with the likes of Ross Lovegrove and the Porsche design team, KEF wanted to make sure their products would be given justice and displayed with panache in a well-crafted environment that would be functional and efficient, yet also idiosyncratic and progressive.
As the mastermind behind the project, Tina Norden ticked all these boxes and more. Exploring the space for the first time in its finished state, she was like kid in a candy store. It was pleasantly surprising to see an accomplished spatial creator still take honest pride in her projects.
“The space is made up of a number of very different areas, so it’s hard to pick a favourite spot,” the Chief Designer of the project says with an accomplished twinkle in her eye. “I think it’s a sum of all the parts, which although diverse, form part of a cohesive whole.”
In many ways, the spatial variety is much like KEF’s wide-ranging product range which has something to suit almost everyone. From conspicuous sculpture-like pieces to elaborate items for ‘audioheads’ and simple everyday products, KEF has quite a mixed market.
“I’m married to a musician, so I know how complicated acoustics can be. We wanted to make the experience here equally approachable for non-audiophiles and bona fide ‘Hi-Fi heads’, and I’m happy with how the space turned out,” she says. “We wanted it be versatile so they can maybe in future use the showroom to hold special dinners or have recitals, parties, talks or whatever.”
Norden says part of the inspiration for the concept came from the design of prohibition-style speakeasy bars. Wanting to depart from the white, airy and cold designs of other audio showrooms, they chose to make it as far from a retail environment as they could. “We wanted it to be a rich experience, like that of a member’s club or cigar lounge,” she comments.
The multifarious mélange of materials, ambiances and sounds materialises like a living interpretation of different genres of music. There are six main areas in total spread across the 3,670 square-foot space, and each has a distinct feel about it. Being the crescendo of the interior, the central Collector’s Lounge is like a manifestation of a grand classical concert with its warm woods and handmade Afghan rugs. Nearby, the artsy corner with authentic Andy Warhol skateboards overlooking the city is more suited to experimental rock or hip-hop. Meanwhile, the sports cars and design books in the Wireless Entertainment Pod are more like a pop or rock song, with the Personal Audio Product Corner more appropriate for relaxing lounge jazz.
In conceptualising the design of the showroom one of KEF’s goals was to fuse music and art, and thus Norden had to work closely with the Hong Kong team behind the project to select what pieces would work and what wouldn’t. “We drove each other a little bit crazy through the decision process because stuff kept being changed,” she says with a laugh. “This was important though, because in the end everything here has been considered carefully.”
One of the highlights of these contemporary art pieces is the animated artwork in The Collector’s Lounge, created by the digital artist collaborative teamLab. The large screen generates 3D water particles which simulates waves and somehow matches with the music in the space.
Fake waves and artsy skateboards were not the only extraneous elements Norden and the design team had to deliberate when executing the project. Being an audio showroom, the sound design was just as important as the interior design, and so they had to work very closely with a team of acoustic specialists to make sure everything was perfect. They also specially selected materials that were suitable acoustically and would absorb the sound.
“We had to strike a balance in the design. The materials had to be thin and match the interior but they also had to be good from an acoustic point of view,” Norden comments. “While there are materials which are rich and warm, like timber and marble, we also complemented these with some colder modern elements which were good for the sound such as the natural recyclable black linoleum.”
Nevertheless, it appears all the deliberation has paid off, as the KEF Music Gallery truly is an exceptional interior and retail experience. All the elements work perfectly in harmony together and the showroom is a great launching pad for the brand.