Establishing a dialogue between the history of the two locations and the style of the two different brands, David Chipperfield Architects has designed two retail projects in the heart of Milan. The Furla flagship store, in Piazza Duomo, draws its inspiration from Bologna and its porticoes, the birthplace of the leading fashion brand, while the Persol concept store, in the Brera district, focuses on tradition through its restoration work.
Incorporating a tribute to its hometown of Bologna, Furla has expanded its flagship store in Piazza Duomo, Milan. The outlet now comprises a series of rooms on two levels connected by grand arched openings – a reference to Bologna’s World Heritage-listed porticoes that brings to mind the warm embrace of a city. The arch shape also characterizes the Fondazione Furla building.
Designed by David Chipperfield Architects, the store now occupies an area of some 2600 square feet (240 m2) on two levels, connected by a substantial staircase finished in light, delicate shades. The same color palette can be found throughout the interiors, characterized by textured surfaces and raw earth walls constructed using a mix of natural clays. This then creates a contrast with the smooth, continuous surface of the floor, with its pastel finish. Around the walls of the store, the modular fixtures that support the shelves are also arch shaped, creating a minimalist but visually striking vibe that reflects a contemporary reinterpretation of Carlo Scarpa’s interiors.
The lightness of these fixtures contrasts with the solid, sculptural appearance of the other furnishing elements, particularly the marble pieces, which bring to mind in a contemporary vein the tables designed by Angelo Mangiarotti.
The lighting design also contributes to the elegance of the rooms, creating an interplay of light and shade that dialogues with the gently curving arches.
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Until the middle of last century, the narrow pedestrian zone formed by Via Fiori Chiari and its continuation into Via Fiori Oscuri was home to some of the most well-used brothels in Milan. Later, the area was frequented by artists and intellectuals. A plaque at number 16 celebrates the fact that Piero Manzoni, a conceptual artist, lived, worked, and died here. Nowadays, just beside this plaque, a double display window marks the entrance to a Persol concept store, the famous eyewear maker that has based its distinctive, elegant brand identity on retro chic and sublime, unisex styles. Joining its historic monobrand store in Rodeo Drive, Los Angeles, Persol’s second home in Milano’s Brera district was designed by David Chipperfield Architects. By establishing an ongoing dialogue with the cobblestoned street, the hidden courtyards, the prestigious buildings, and the famous local art gallery, the Pinacoteca di Brera, the architects set out to create a link between the respective souls of the city and the brand, between architectural history and the new renovations, as part of a relationship of complementarity.
By reclaiming and restoring the architectural elements of the building, they now act as a historical shell for the store’s new contemporary fixtures, most strikingly the aluminum wall displays. The building’s original materials have been made clearly visible, giving the interior a balanced, elegant feel. Almost creating a theatrical atmosphere, the exposed brick walls behind the self-standing display units play a leading role in this.
The original gneiss floors, uncovered and bush-hammered, were treated in a similar way, while the granite column and timber elements were cleaned back and restored, making the architecture itself a multi-material, multi-expressive element.
Covering an area of some 1290 square feet (120 m2), the Persol concept store can be seen as a sequence of four spaces divided by three gateways that establish a particular spatial and temporal rhythm, which the product displays are organized to match.
The idea of contrasting opposites is emphasized throughout the store: between artisanry and industry, between rough and smooth surfaces, between discontinuous and continuous surfaces, between the historical and the contemporary, and between archeology and technology.
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Location: Milan, Italy
Architects: David Chipperfield Architects
Client: Furla and Persol
Photography by Alberto Parise and Gerhardt Kellermann, courtesy of David Chipperfield Architects