Polka Gelato by Vonsung

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Raw concrete and rough limestone clad the interior of a London ice cream parlour designed by branding studio Vonsung.

Located inside a historic building in Fitzroy Square, the gelato shop is filled with bulbous black sofas and cylindrical white stools.

Ice cream packaging and signage were also designed using a monochrome palette.

The only colours to be found in the shop are inside the ice cream cabinet.

This is the second story on Dezeen this week about an ice cream shop in London, following an Italian gelato stall that evokes the seaside – see all our stories about ice cream parlours.

Polka Gelato

Vonsung recently completed the total identity design for Polka Gelato, from naming, identity, branding, signage, website to spatial design. Based in a conservation area, Fitzroy Square, Polka Gelato opens its doors to showcase their artisanal way of creating ice cream. Despite all the talk of a double-dip recession in the UK, the client’s wish was to offer something enlightening, from old to young, a sense of affordable luxury amid these difficult times.

The ambition of the new ice cream brand was to open a gelato store sourced only from the finest ingredients of precious, exotic fruits, herbs, spices and flavors. The vision was to bring the age-old history of Italian gelato to London, while a recent trip to New York sparked a new revolutionary thought – the gelato popsicle. To realize this vision, London’s design studio, Vonsung, was invited to work on the dream.

The character of the listed building situated near the Fitzroy Square, is clearly that of a London period building. The dilemma was how to avoid the ice cream parlour formula of pop-culture, primary colours interior decoration, without making a disconnected piece of modern design that clashes with the building’s original identity.

An early decision was to place the Polka’s colourful, beautifully crafted gelatos as the central focal point and make the surrounding interior resemble the sculpted nature of the hand-made gelato.

The concept of the store plays with the complementary characteristics and the related dichotomy between male and female; child and adult; night and day. This is reflected in the design through the formal language and tactile quality of the finish materials used. The surrounding interior is unified with a single colour used on all surfaces.

Housed inside a concrete/limestone mix surrounding, the furniture piece on the floor is designed as a strong, masculine and dynamic form whilst the lighting enunciates femininity to create more fluid contour lines. The store is designed in a more playful manner creating different zones that maintain the perspective view between them.

Joseph Sung (Creative Director Vonsung) has strived in his precedent projects to experiment variant ways to explore materials. Among the natural, old, and time-proven material, Sung has derived at lime concrete for this project. Being situated in a historical setting, Sung felt that juxtaposing old and new material would give expected meaning for both, as exemplified using external architectural material within the interior space of the gelato store.

Stemming from the client brief, Sung identified with the key word, ‘artisan’, and made every effort to not to allow the solid masses of concrete material to feel uncomfortable for the visitors, but feel a sense of skill, artistry of the space. The boundaries of the interior wall and ceiling were made to be permeable as possible by way of shadow gaps and openings. Also, to reduce the monolithic manner of concrete, Sung mixed limestone into the batch and applied a smooth finish to the raw concrete.

The result was an interior space, which kindles the feeling of being an insider in an environment; simply put, it recognises what may feel like being within a creamy gelato batch. By adopting this method of design, Sung drew the attention to the timeliness of the space and architecture. All faculties of perception and senses, particularly tactility, facilitate the customer experience.

Known for increasingly severe minimalism, this project is Sung’s latest interpretation of totality of branding design, however restrained and serene but rich in texture and delicate modulated light. With the aim of creating a space that will age better with time, our design creates a circular passage allowing the customer to experience the space in multiple ways and interpretations.

Furniture staged in key points throughout the store creates the spatial concept using a small space changing to an open condition.

Looking from the outside, the interior resembles a tale of a spaceship landed on the moon. If you taste a scoop of Polka Gelato, you may well think you are (over) the moon.

Completed: August 2011
Design: Joseph Sung (Vonsung)
Design Assistants: Jing Chen, Teresa Wong
Branding: Michiko Ito (Vonsung)

Contractor: MKM Contracts
Lighting: iGuzzini
Carpentry: Valchromat
Furniture: Modus, HAY


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