[scroll down for more images]

alt="rock climbing", "laos", "storefront", "Gordon Hunt"
final storefront

alt="rock climbing", "laos", "storefront", "Gordon Hunt"
after demo

alt="rock climbing", "laos", "storefront", "Gordon Hunt"before demo

alt="rock climbing", "laos", "storefront", "Gordon Hunt"original storefront

alt="rock climbing", "laos", "storefront", "Gordon Hunt"customer seating area

alt="rock climbing", "laos", "storefront", "Gordon Hunt"secure storage

alt="rock climbing", "laos", "storefront", "Gordon Hunt"street presence (pre-construction)

alt="rock climbing", "laos", "storefront", "Gordon Hunt"
Nam Song River

                                                    © Gordon Hunt 2016. All content by Gordon Hunt unless otherwise stated

Laos: Storefront


My client for this Intervention was Adam, a rock-climbing instructor who claimed to be the first of his kind in the country. Laos boasts a wealth of scalable limestone cliffs, and climbing is just starting to become popular in a number of places. Competition among Vang Vieng’s shop owners is fierce, and the branding of the town is moving away from “backpacker haven” in favour of “adventure tourism”. Adam is now one of at least three who offer rock climbing classes and tours, and after meeting with him and discussing a potential project, we decided that the business end of his home/shop required a closer look.

Adam had an idea of how he wanted to improve his business, but his ideas needed a bit more clarity and an outsider’s perspective. A former elementary school turned nightclub, his home/shop consisted of a corrugated metal roof atop a series of columns, bookended by two walls on either side. The front of the home was completely open, which meant security was a continuous concern, especially since his business depended upon the rock climbing gear casually hung by the front entrance. There was no hierarchy of space; the public area for his customers was the same as the living space where he ate dinner and socialised. He did not perceive this as a problem; however, from the perspective of a potential client, there was a significant amount of professionalism that he had failed to propagate. After highlighting this problem, we worked together to devise a solution that would benefit both his business and living spaces.

And so after amending his website, designing some t-shirts, and creating a business card, I turned my attention to the more pressing task: creating a storefront for his climbing school.

Adam and I decided that the top priority was security: he had nowhere to store and lock his climbing equipment, and this was clearly a problem. Another pressing issue I felt was the matter of signage: his workspace had a number of obnoxious signs with colourful images, bold text, and a multitude of spelling errors that made the business seem less of a professional climbing school and more of an amateur tourist agency. We determined that a blackboard with neat handwriting was needed that could be updated regularly with the ebbs and flows of tourists during the year. A third issue was street presence, and this proved to be very difficult to address due to the large umbrellas and colourful scooters of the adjacent business. I did the best I could in extending the office portion of his property out to the street (moving some benches from his living space into a small waiting area), and re-arranged the lighting and flower pots—simple moves that ended up making a huge difference. In the end, the resultant space dedicated for clients was far nicer than I had anticipated. This space became an extension of the built storefront, and while the latter took several furniture, vegetation, and lighting that made the space so successful. Small moves can mean a lot, and this new space for clients is now my favourite space in his home/office.