Perhaps many of our readers are unaware, but Peter Marino is one of the world’s top architects in the high-end fashion and accessories retail market. His firmly consolidated reputation means he commands not only a raft of contracts with the most prestigious international brands - Dior, Armani, Chanel, Fendi, Zegna and Louis Vuitton are just some of the names on a much longer list - but also receives commissions from competing brands. The darling of them all, he succeeds in meeting their different requirements with a chameleon-like architectural flair, coupled with an obsessive attention to detail. Although the name indicates evident Italian roots, Marino is on many counts the classic New Yorker who decided early on to eschew any hint of mediocrity and harness his prodigious intelligence to acquiring a vast knowledge base on which to found his activity. After graduating from Cornell, he opened his own practice in New York in 1978. The firm now employs 160 people and has six associate partners. His first experience was with giants of architecture like Skidmore Owings & Merrill and I.M. Pei. At the same time he was an assiduous frequenter of Andy Warhol’s circle and the art world. Perhaps it is just this mixité of interests that led Marino to become a Janus of the fashion world - an architect and creator of exquisite top-end fashion retail spaces while also perfectly at ease in many worlds, his photograph often gracing the glossy magazines. I would put him on a par with another iconic figure, another outstanding professional of vast erudition, Karl Lagerfeld. Marino’s backstory is fully reflected in his recent South Korean project, having received a citation for design excellence from the AIA New York State Design Award. This seven-story building for a total surface area of more than 5,000 sq m is the flagship store of Boontheshop, a women’s fashion company with headquarters in Seoul. A quality architecture, it stands in a dense urban fabric whose main feature is its cacophony of styles. Peter Marino has fitted an austere white marble structure into this jumbled context. The building has become the new beacon for urban development in Cheongdam, the most sought-after retail district in the South Korean capital. The program had to contend with a steeply sloping plot and the consequent need to have points of access on different levels on a site whose northern end runs along Boulevard Apgujeong-ro. The decision to design two stand-alone structures was a legal requirement since the overall footprint comprises two separate pieces of real estate. The challenge of having to build two independent volumes was, however, turned into an opportunity by creating a multi-facetted series of structures on different levels and gradients. The result is a multitude of views both from the inside and from the myriad alleys and passageways that riddle the area. Improving the pedestrian experience was another goal set for the project. A series of micro-plazas at the foot of the building offer welcome respite from the dense traffic all around. The need to comply with Seoul’s complex solar setback requirements was similarly turned to architectural advantage. The volumes have been abstractly stacked so as to ensure the regulation amount of direct sunlight. The result is a series of seemingly independent volumes stacked in staggered fashion one on top of the other - a plasticity of form that allows for terraces on the top floors offering breathtaking views over the city and the river Han. The two buildings making up this single large store are linked by transparent glass bridges. Set back from the building façades, they create interesting perspectives while at the same time signposting and protecting the entrance that stands almost inside a private courtyard, an intimate retreat shielded from passing pedestrians. The interior design concept responds to two distinct requirements of the brief. The first, the need to create separate functional sales environments to suit the different collections on offer: one geared to a more mature established clientele, the other targeting the young upcoming woman. The second, was the site’s steep gradient and the need to have spaces on different levels yet areas that blended into each other. Accordingly, Peter Marino’s interior concept mirrors the duality of the brands on display: one more raw and urban, the other more polished and refined. All this is accompanied by the development of a new visual vocabulary marking out the architect’s own personal brand, characterized by architecture and exquisite detail, the fruit of research and innovation that takes fashion and design a step further. Within the two freestanding structures, three floors are given over to multi-brand luxury retail linked by a system of staircases that combine abstract architecture with cutting edge contemporary design. Starting on the fourth floor are a café, a private club, and a cultural center. The top floor houses a restaurant and a series of panoramic terraces. The basement levels include a double height gallery and exhibition space as well as a car park. Window openings towards the west are deliberately few, the apertures set deep into the marble cladding to provide shading, minimize thermal gain and control the amount of direct sunlight entering the building. Daylight is allowed to stream into the building from the north side through the monumental glazing, a transparent sail connecting small lush courtyards with this staggering triple height opening that serves as a window into the store for those approaching from the north. The two volumes are in traditional reinforced concrete while the connecting bridges are in coated reflective glass. The exterior stone cladding has an extremely high albedo. Like the polished mirror stainless steel panels, it effectively offsets the sun of these latitudes.