The Miu Miu concept, designed and refined by Roberto Baciocchi, extends its global reach to the City of Light
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 4/1/2002 12:00:00 AM
In Paris's 7th arrondissement, at the heart of the Left Bank, 16 Rue de Grenelle might give American fashion watchers a touch of déjà vu. The latest Miu Miu, opened last October, shares many similarities with Miu Miu in Los Angeles. Which is actually very much the point. For almost every retail location for Miu Miu and its big-sister label, Prada, Miuccia Prada and her husband, Patrizio Bertelli, have entrusted Italian architect Roberto Baciocchi with spreading a worldwide message. Since 1986, his Arezzo-based Studio Baciocchi has interpreted the visual identity of both brands, going beyond shops to embrace showrooms, administrative sites, production facilities, and even the Prada Luna Rossa team headquarters for America's Cup 2000. (The major exception is Rem Koolhaas's New York store for Prada. See "Finally, Prada," page 222.)
Prada and Bertelli's first factor in site selection is scale. Quoting Prada: "The underlying concept for the brand is the sale of products in large spaces with an architecture that is original and, at the same time, subdued." The Paris building fit the basic bill. Like predecessors around the globe, the Miu Miu on Rue de Grenelle occupies a grand architectural volume: 15,000 square feet with 5,500 square feet devoted to retail functions.
The site was also geographically desirable, but the original structure—a five-level parking garage—offered nothing beyond the facade deemed worthy of weaving into the Miu Miu fabric. Baciocchi and his team completely demolished the interior, retaining only perimeter walls. The new building, partially adhering to Miu Miu's established tenets, partially responsive to site, was conceived as a striking enclosure for the brand's defining elements.
Baciocchi's scheme involved reconfiguring the interior as four levels instead of five, a decision allowing improved floor-to-ceiling ratios for the first two sales floors. The ground level is dedicated to women's shoes, accessories, and apparel, while the second story houses a mix of men's and women's wear. The third and fourth floors accommodate storage and offices.
Reiterating the proven success of Miu Miu's architectural vocabulary, Baciocchi created a situation giving the entering customer an immediate overview of both volume and products. A concrete stairway and a steel-and-glass elevator just past the door entice shoppers upward. Meanwhile, the ground level exerts its own pull, thanks to a striking longitudinal axis formed by mirror-image ribbons of lighting embedded in the concrete floor and the ceiling directly above.
The runway is flanked by colonnade treatments. On one side, a series of full-height partitions that drop below floor level create a line of alcoves for cash-wrap and display. Opposite, canvas-wrapped panels in signature Miu Miu red pierce the ceiling plane. Articulating the space to create areas of intimacy and reinforcing the axis without obstructing floor-through views, the panels pose as display fixtures, too. They not only anchor hang bars but also form a brilliant backdrop for garments.
The remainder of the display scheme adheres to the tried-and-true Miu Miu mix. The primary component is a gleaming aluminum box with a red-painted interior. The boxes recur throughout both retail levels, in dimensions suitable for showing off a variety of merchandise to best advantage. Aluminum shelves, lit from below, and glass-and-aluminum cabinets complete a storage and display ensemble coherently translated by Baciocchi from one continent to another. In an architectural conversation with the global marketplace, Miu Miu speaks a single, unified language.