Scents and Striations

John Hill
15. April 2021
Photo courtesy of D.S. & Durga

The new Brooklyn outpost for D.S. & Durga, the perfume house founded by David Seth Moltz (D.S.) and Kavi Ahuja Moltz (Durga), stands out for the striated walls that resemble rammed earth. The walls are actually concrete, though, a product of circumstance and hands-on testing.

Project: D.S. & Durga Williamsburg, 2021
Location: 126 North Sixth Street, Brooklyn, NY
Client: D.S. & Durga
Designer: Kavi Ahuja Moltz with K&CO and Pilskin Architecture
Material: Precast concrete wall panels
Fabrication: Oso Industries

The boutique on North Sixth Street in Williamsburg is the second location for D.S. & Durga, following its NYC flagship that opened in Manhattan's Nolita neighborhood a couple of years ago. Kavi Ahuja Moltz, who trained as an architect before launching D.S. & Durga with her husband in 2009, designed both stores with K&CO, the interior design firm founded by Krista Ninivaggi. Kavi and Krista attended the same high school and reconnected to work on the stores, which appear to be gaining in ambition each time.

The Williamsburg outpost occupies a one-story building with a simple exterior: black painted brick, illuminated signage, and a folding wall that slides open to reveal the bespoke interior. The main space has wares displayed on two tables — one custom concrete and one a classic of early modernism — and on shelves set into one of the walls. A window at the back reveals a small atelier where D.S. & Durga's scents are developed. Tying the whole together are the striated walls that wrap three sides of the small store.

Explaining the design of the precast concrete walls, Ninivaggi said that at some point in the process "the whole design team became hooked on the idea of using rammed earth." Such an application in New York City is rare — if not nonexistent — something the team quickly learned after some phone calls and research: "We realized that not only would the climate in the Northeast likely not allow for rammed earth to be feasible," Ninivaggi continued, "we could also not find anyone locally experienced with rammed earth construction." 

So the designers tapped into the "amazing architectural concrete" available in the area, working with Eric Weil at Brooklyn's Oso Industries to devise precast panels that echo rammed earth. Creating the final look was a bit of trial and error, with the designers playing with mixes at Oso's shop to nail down the colors and appearance of the precast panels. The result is a soothing, yet provocative space — no doubt aligned with the scents produced by D.S. & Durga.

The storefront folds and slides open to connect the store to the sidewalk. A Rivoli serving table, designed by Eileen Gray for E.1027, sits just beyond the threshold. (Photo courtesy of D.S. & Durga)
The concrete panels wrap three sides of the small store, while a cast-in-place concrete counter, also by Oso Industries, sits in the middle of the space beneath a chandelier by Entler, a ceramics studio based in Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy of D.S. & Durga)
The window at the back of the store provides a peek into the lab space where D.S. & Durga's scents are developed. (Photo courtesy of D.S. & Durga)
The two curved corners are important features that give the impression of a continuous surface and of thicker walls rather than 1" (2.5cm) deep panels. (Photo courtesy of D.S. & Durga)
A rendering of the store illustrates the striated layers of the concrete panels and a design feature not present in the finished product: vertical streaks where the colors are pulled across multiple layers of concrete. (Image courtesy of D.S. & Durga)
The concrete colors and the composition of their layers were tested in the shop of Oso Industries. (Photo courtesy of D.S. & Durga)
According to Ninivaggi, "After two playdates and dozens of tests, we were on our way completing the design intent for the store." (Photo courtesy of D.S. & Durga)
Some of the tests attempted to achieve the vertical streaks visible in the rendering. (Photo courtesy of D.S. & Durga)
Larger test panels show the striations that would be carried through to the final product — a definite resemblance to rammed earth. (Photo courtesy of D.S. & Durga)

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