A Glacial Front

Ports 1961 unveils a modern new look by JEB Custom Projects

Forty years since Ports opened its first international boutique, the luxury fashion brand has officially established itself as a modern, covetable label, with two stunning new flagship stores in Hong Kong and Shanghai. The latest store on Canton Road in Tsim Sha Tsui is a remarkable example of contemporary, sleek architecture, with a façade that offers a subtle nod to the brand’s Canadian heritage, while oozing sophistication and style. Even with strong competition from leading luxury brands along the upscale shopping street, Ports’ newest flagship is undoubtedly the cool kid on the block.

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Canadian architecture firm UUfie conceptualised the label’s new image, inspired by an iceberg floating in the ocean. The evolution of the iceberg concept drove the local design and delivery team of eightsixthree and JEB Custom Projects to create a stunning façade of softly radiating, angled glass cubes. These glass blocks, evoking giant candlelit ice cubes, are capped on one side by satin stainless steel which cleverly changes the façade’s appearance when viewed from different angles. London based lighting consultants, Inverse Lighting, supported the local team to create the nonuniform illumination needed to meet the brief, using two RGB bulbs per glass block.

The beauty and sleek elegance of the façade belies the complex structural components that were required to execute this unprecedented design. Tackling the challenge of a three-dimensional, diaphanous façade on a decrepit building, the team had to reconcile the conflicts of design concept & reality. As Nick Hinton, who helms the JEB Custom Projects team described; “you don’t understand the convolutions in the design until you do a 1:1 mock-up”.

A scrupulous design development and prototyping phase tested multiple iterations of blocks and sub-frames for an appropriate balance of depth, translucence and structural rigor. An inventive and fully concealed zigzag support structure, which JEB Custom Projects is particularly proud of, evolved to buttress the glass blocks and combat gravitational force.

The imaginative solution for the three-dimensional glass cubes involved two blocks cut on a 45-degree angle and fused together with UV glue. The blocks are irregular in thickness & size which generated the perfect ice cube effect, but challenged the fabrication team to produce consistent, rigid modules. A savvy example of innovative design that optimises cost, fabrication and installation, the façade was able to be entirely manufactured off-site in modules using no wet components and inserted into place efficiently over five nights.

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This ground-breaking project is a testament to the demiurgic and meticulous design & delivery team of eightsixthree and JEB Custom Projects. Tracey Stoute, Founder of eightsixthree described working with JEB Custom Projects as very positive and credits them with making an intricate design appear simple. The entire project team worked together seamlessly, delivering a project everyone involved is extremely proud of.

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