De Beers Jewelry Store | The Plan
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De Beers Jewelry Store

Antonio Citterio | Patricia Viel

The building’s skin, a double skin whose lightweight, impalpable surface seems to take shape gradually before our eyes has become an identifying architectural feature over the last decade, the focus of much thought and many projects by some of the most interesting talents on the international scene. The building’s skin embraces essential functions with effortless ease, contributing to the modernist mission of freeing up the body of the building to create transparent spaces suitable for any use. As a result, the outer skin has become a piece of hardware, receiving and storing an incessant flow of information, its embedded technology becoming more sophisticated by the day. The building’s skin fulfils another, increasingly important function of contemporary architecture: to convey the architectural message and in turn, project the image of the client and the client’s brand. As Venturi prophesized, to justify its raison d’être, architecture is turning buildings into advertising hoardings. And to do so it makes increasing use of ever more sophisticated and elegant means. In going down this road though, architecture is shifting its centre of gravity dangerously close to that line beyond which a building risks becoming an ephemeral entity subject to the whims of fashion, taste and marketing. The skin is an interface projecting a ceaseless message, architecture an ancient medium in a period of flux and constant transition. These were my thoughts as I looked over the project for the small De Beers building in Los Angeles designed by Antonio Citterio with the assistance of master craftsman Stefano Ronchetti. The building concept, especially its striking façade sprung from a previous project for the same client: the 2001 refurbishment of the London store of De Beers, perhaps the most important diamond dealer in the world with a particularly exclusive clientele. The Citterio practice had based the London makeover on two elements common to both the location and the client:...

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