Those just out for a stroll in Soho a few weeks ago didn’t know what to make of the camera-wielding mob outside the refurbished Camper store on the corner of Prince and Greene Streets, where a smiling Japanese gentleman in head-to-toe black looked proudly up at the huge red shoelace tied in a bow between the doorway and the paper-tube roof. “He designed this,” a PR person told one inquiring pedestrian who didn’t recognize Shigeru Ban. Fresh off a plane from Mexico and due back to JFK within hours for a flight to Paris, the architect was in New York to celebrate his “house of shoes,” the newest of Camper’s concept stores. Ban agreed to the collaboration after learning of the Spanish shoe company’s roots in recycled materials, he explained at a press briefing inside the cozy, cherry-red space that he gave a corrugated ceiling, angled fin walls, and Artek furnishings.
“This was not an easy project,” said Ban, who was challenged by the single-story building’s landmark designation. “There were so many restrictions—unnecessary restrictions,” said Ban, who succeeded in demolishing walls between the structural piers and replacing the original windows with sliding doors of floor-to-ceiling glass. As for further projects with Camper, for which he designed a traveling paper-tube pavilion for the 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race, he is all ears. “If I’m asked to design shoes, I’d have to do it,” Ban said with a laugh.