Copper & Brass
Monday | 16 July, 2012 | 9:46 am

Copper illumination

By Nick Wright

Metals provide a vintage look at concept beer retailer in Toronto

July 2012 - In Toronto’s Liberty Village, a post-industrial neighborhood that has been the focus of recent urban redevelopment, one new shop piped in historic qualities with copper elements. The Beer Boutique, a concept store operated by the The Beer Store, an Ontario beer retailer, features a striking chandelier articulated by LED lamps integrated seamlessly into copper pipes hanging from above.

Although many industrial spaces in the surrounding area have been repurposed into lofts or workspaces, The Beer Boutique’s space is new construction, completed in 2011. But the store’s architecture firm, II By IV, Toronto, wanted it to fit within Liberty Village’s prevailing aesthetic.

“We did a lot of research into the making of beer,” says Keith Rushbrook, partner at II By IV. The firm found images of giant, bulbous copper kettles and fermenting vats that evoke classic ideas of breweries inside brick buildings, which all influenced the rustic color palette. Thus, copper served as the signature material, according to the company.

copperbrass-illumin071612-lead2Originally, II By IV built a prototype using recycled copper pipes from a local hardware store. Toronto-based Illumineer Ltd., an LED lighting company, fabricated the copper and built the final fixture from 1-inch ID reclaimed copper pipe.

Gerald Lue, illumination engineer at Illumineer, says the company developed its own machine to remove tarnish and polish the pipes, “as opposed to doing it by hand,” resulting in a warm luster that makes the chandelier stand out. The electric wiring runs through the pipes, maintaining the chandelier’s uncluttered look.

Because the LED lamps’ diameter and ID of the pipes are different, they’re joined via plastic extrusions to 90-degree copper angles. Each lamp varies in height, length and position, giving it an orderly yet staggered appearance. The lamps are oriented horizontally at different angles above a central display in the store. Lue describes the chandelier as resembling one of the early Windows screensavers of self-drawing 3-D pipes.

Mix and match

Aside from the chandelier, the interior showcases a variety of other metals. Other parts of the store incorporate oxidized, rusted Corten Steel for cladding existing support columns, giving I-beams an aged appearance, according to II By IV. Entry door handles and cash register area millwork are made from hot-rolled steel. Gondola shelving is built from black metal with an integrated thermofoil veneer, and black hairline stainless steel went into storage millwork and the cash desk. A cross-hatch of salvaged wood and copper tubes makes for an austere backdrop behind the checkout.

The new, uncomplicated space made it easy to design, Rushbrook says. The challenge was creating a vintage appeal. “There were no weird angles or odd shapes, just a nice, clean, open space,” he says. “But we always do a lot of research to get a core foundation to the design, and we’re constantly checking into that and making sure the design and concept is still on track, not just for us but also the client.”

Since 1927, The Beer Store has had a well-established presence: It operates 441 retail locations throughout Ontario punctuated by just one Beer Boutique (according to 2011 numbers). As an urban infill catering to a younger demographic, the boutique is focused more on mixing single bottles and pairing them with food, Rushbrook adds. “It’s a different idea of retailing completely,” he says. It has a smaller footprint than its bigger namesake, which mainly sells 12 and 24 packs.

“We wanted the feeling for a new structure, that it was old and we’d just found it and moved into it with these modern fixtures,” says Rushbrook. MM

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