The city library in Stuttgart is a stark white cube made from concrete studded with frosted glass bricks. Situated on Mailänder Platz, it is both contemporary and iconic, a minimalist yet imposing architectural statement that was intended to set the tone for the up-and-coming area in which it was built in 2011. Such a bold architectural statement is perhaps not so surprising when you consider that the city was one of the first in Germany to embrace Modernism in the shape of the Weissenhof Estate, completed in 1927. The development consisted of 21 buildings which were united by a clean, uncluttered design that celebrated white façades, flat roofs and open-plan living spaces. Its impact was so great that Weissenhof was subsequently regarded as central to the growth of modern architecture internationally.
Quest for modernity
Almost 90 years after Weissenhof was created, Stuttgart remains just as devoted to the quest for modernity. In addition to the city library, there are the museums of Porsche and Mercedes-Benz that celebrate the streamlined style and clean-cut feel that is these brands’ DNA. And today, that same ethos is spilling out into the city’s shopping streets, as retailers seek to create the perfect cutting-edge environment in which to sell their wares.
Mix of materials
On Hauptstätter Strasse, Hook & Eye combines home accessories with restored vintage pieces, and has made a huge investment in the design and feel of its store. ‘We love a mix of different materials and we like things to have “patina”’, comments Hook & Eye’s Iris Wilke. ‘On our concrete floor you can see the running routes of our customers.’ The store is fitted out with built-in components made from white-washed pinewood, a modular system that Hook & Eye developed in-house. ‘We love to work with bold colours, that’s why we kept the décor of the rooms white, grey and clean’, Wilke explains. ‘Like a white canvas, it’s a perfect background for our colourful interiors.’
In addition to the team’s own restored furniture, Hook & Eye stocks many cutting-edge brands. ‘We are always looking for fresh labels, such as Fundamental Berlin, a label by young Berlin architects,’ says Wilke. ‘We like their bowls and frames, which are inspired by the mathematics of nature. Another label that we like is Pols Potten from the Netherlands, which specialises in porcelain figures including golden pineapples or big white lobsters. But we also like to mix these items with more common interiors pieces by Scandinavian manufacturers such as House Doctor, Madam Stoltz, Bloomingville and Stelton.’
More than a store
Within a minimalist space filled with wooden crates in the ‘temporary concept mall’ Fluxus on Rotebühlplatz, La Pour La is both a fashion store, which showcases streetwear and high-fashion labels, and an art gallery, which also plays host to concerts and club nights. Eclectic womenswear labels such as Libertine-Libertine and Sessùn sit alongside urban-inspired names that include Wood Wood. The result is a multi-functional space that that epitomises the cutting-edge of modern retail.
Studiotique was founded in 2012 by a graphic designer and an estate agent and is ‘the perfect match between aesthetics and efficiency’, according to store manager Angélique Catuhe. Situated in Heusteigviertel, an area known for its late 19th and early 20th-century architecture and, increasingly, for its cafés, shops and restaurants, the boutique spans fashion, furniture and beauty. ‘The name Studiotique is a playful mixture of the words “studio” and “boutique”,’ says Catuhe of the store, which is ‘careful to showcase designers whose work sits outside the mainstream’.
Labels to know
Labels include furniture brand Helmut Morrison and its quirky Mustafa rocking bench inspired by original platform seats on the Munich metro. Matt light fittings by Llot Llov have a conceptual appeal: stripped-back lightbulbs with oversized cables cased in knitted turquoise tubes. However, it is not just the products on sale that echo the unadorned style of modernism. ‘The focus here is on architecture and design, and the store is fitted out with shelves by Neuvonfrisch and Studionovo,’ notes Catuhe of the display units, which are works of art in themselves.
Ultimately, the strength of these retailers lies in their investment in solid design over the glamour and kudos of more widely known labels. As Catuhe puts it, ‘We stock designers who are not very famous, but make extremely beautiful things.’ It’s an ethos that brings Stuttgart shop owners into sharp focus as proponents of a more diverse shopping experience.