Peter Marino’s design idea takes its cue from the Fendi tradition dating back to the Twenties in Rome. A strong link is seen between the city and the brand. This results in the choice of quintessentially Roman materials, such as travertine with its horizontal striations, cobblestones and rust encrusting the marble fountains. In his design Marino hints at Roman architectural motifs, but then uses avant-garde technology typical of so-called “non standard” architecture. His mandate was first and foremost to design a “store prototype”, an “architectural concept” embodying the brand identity. The prototype would then be developed by Marino’s studio, as well as by Fendi technical staff and various local architects, in drawing up plans for individual stores across the globe.
Although plans for the individual store were theoretically to be kept in line with an approved design archetype, it was Marino’s first important essay in designing a specific store in Rome that established the pattern for the “concept”. Set in the heart of the capital, the Rome shop had to bow to the stringent planning and structural restrictions binding on palazzo Boncompagni Ludovisi. Marino made the best of the rigid existing structure by focusing on room design: each store department picks out a signature that suits the goods on display. It is linked as a whole by a series of horizontal and vertical axes which work as a microcosmic allusion to certain spatial Baroque motifs.
The challenge in New York was adhere to the clearly Roman concept.
In actual fact the structural state of the Fifth Avenue building afforded much greater freedom. It is a framework of steel girders and reinforced concrete floors. This proved less constraining and in some cases more scenically expressive than Rome. The façade of the New York store enabled Marino to move beyond interior architecture to extend the brand in terms of architecture of the street. The plinth forming the lower façade had been unhappily tampered with and had lost coherence. The poor state of upkeep and lack of landmark status allowed, and indeed demanded, more drastic intervention. This context so very different from Rome permitted the integration of the Fendi identity in the store façade design built up together with Astec. The new plinth forms a metal variant on the classic sales-wall as used for Fendi’s best-known category of product: the fur coat.
Whereas inside there are materials resembling rust, outside special alloy sheet steel which forms a permanent rust layer is used. The sheet metal was break formed to create a ribbed relief which would recall the lengthwise striation of travertine, the reference Roman material. The steel serves as a cladding for the columns and beams that frame the great shop windows of the first two storeys. For the upper storeys of the façade the new metal cladding acquires transparency. Horizontal rectangles are punched through the steel revealing the original neo-classical sandstone facing. The effect achieved is one of porosity and superimposition: the previous state is not cancelled but simply altered.
The organising principle of the “concept” gives each of the showrooms a “signature” in the form of a partition-wall typifying the category of wares displayed. Handbags and accessories have walls in yellow travertine with striations running laterally. The upper courses are draped with white “sails” with a horizontal canneté effect. The travertine walls bear thin projecting shelves in taxos marble: the light fittings are attached to brackets supporting the marble shelving. Elsewhere there are niches lined with taxos marble and with a luminous acrylic surface applied to the top. A distinctive feature of the New York design is the mixing of different décor motifs in certain rooms. Thus the handbags room has only two partition walls relating to the bags theme. Another wall is used to display eyewear and accordingly bears the motif assigned to this product range: the wall is clad with mdf panels milled to create horizontal relief. Sunglasses are displayed in long narrow niches. Beyond the handbags room is the women’s shoes area. This section is marked by a feature-wall with horizontally ribbed panels holding projecting rectangular display shelves in thick yellow travertine. Set into the under side of the shelves are halogen spot lights that shine on the shelf below. Above these shelves is a sweep of curving “sail” in yellow travertine running the length of the wall.
The stair hall is adjacent to shoes and has a look of its own. The side-walls are panelled in irridescent metallic poured resin with pronounced and uneven horizontal ribbing. The effect is achieved by milling the mdf support panels. The treads (without risers) are in lava-stone resting on a central stringer. The running glass parapet fixes directly onto individual treads. There are three flights of stairs and a back wall made of irregularly ribbed white panels. Fendi logo images are projected onto the white backdrop. As they glide downward they ricochet off the people using the stairs.
The top floor has three main interconnecting rooms. The room at the top of the stairs displays ready-to-wear clothing. The décor motif is similar to the handbags room: walls in yellow travertine with and without the white canneté sweep of sail. Where the handbags had shelves, here there are metal hangers for clothing. Here the intrusion of a column has been resolved by the placement of a pier housing niches. The pier is clad in red travertine which carries over from the adjacent room, Fendi Casa, which is entirely clad in red travertine with niches and shelves in taxos marble. Past the ready-to-wear area lies the Selleria displaying hand-crafted leather bags. The signature idea here departs from the materials used so far and introduces a new note. The walls are lined with hand-decorated panels in hand poured resin of various shades using gold-leaf to achieve colour and graphic effects. Bags are displayed in niches and shelving, again in taxos marble.
Beyond the Selleria room one reaches the furs and VIP area which overlooks Fifth Avenue in three broad window bays. The window intradoses are clad in steel-sprayed mdf panelling, subsequently rusted to match the texture and colour of the exterior cladding. The upper side of the intradoses, again in rusted steel, rises above the ceiling of the room, emphasising the break between the room and the façade. A curvilinear rusted steel curtain box is suspended from the ceiling holding a curtain of woven nylon, copper and fur strips. The fur department theme is captured by a combination of walls in milled mdf with irregular horizontal ribbing, inclined travertine “sails” undulating above the hanger-racks, and curved and inclined travertine slabs horizontally cantilevered from the wall.