Tie A Yellow Ribbon
Peter Marino + Associates, Architects wrapped its interior for Fendi's Rome flagship like a luxury gift—with a bow on top
Aric Chen -- Interior Design, 7/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
Peter Marino understands luxury. Chanel. Louis Vuitton. Giorgio Armani. His firm's witty architectural gestures grace stores for each. So it's no surprise that Fendi would follow suit and commission him to design its own sexy and glamorous flagship in Rome. Knowing Marino's ability to conceptualize opulence, the company didn't hesitate to ask for something that would embody its Janus-faced philosophy. "They told me, 'We love colors, but also black and white. We're very modern, but everything's handcrafted. Our designs might be symmetrical on one hand, but asymmetrical on the other,'" Marino recalls.
He also knew how much the 80-year-old fashion house revels in its own iconic history—the sexy furs designed by Karl Lagerfeld since 1965, the timeless double-F logo, and the company's roots in Rome since 1925. "Like Fendi, the space had to be quintessentially Roman," the architect says.
Enter Palazzo Fendi, a 19th-century edifice near the Spanish Steps that's also home to the company's new headquarters and design studios, which Marino also designed on its top four floors.
His concept store occupies 7,500 square feet on the first two levels. A travertine-and-painted-cement plaster skin contains the building. A traditional store front entrance faces a square. But Marino chose to make a statement using another entry through an enclosed courtyard off a side street. To bring the classically Roman exterior gradually indoors, he paved the passageway leading into the courtyard in san pietrini, the traditional cobblestones that "have covered the streets since ancient times," he explains. Lining the passageway's ceiling and walls is backlit, striated amber-colored glass, echoing the city's ubiquitous travertine.
Past a protruding segment of the courtyard's wall that serves as a movie screen for an outdoor theater, a sliding glass door opens onto the drama inside.
Look up and along the ceiling's edge you see baroque curves ripple against modern straight planes. In a ground-level section for handbags, the gold-colored travertine walls seem to erupt near the ceiling in a ribbon of white MDF that runs along the top like a curtain valance. The scheme continues in other rooms, though the materials flip. In the ground-level shoe section, textured MDF clads walls, and the ribbon is made from travertine that's been laser-cut to a 1 1/4-inch thickness.
The elements reappear in the second-floor's ready-to-wear section, this time with the travertine-clad walls and MDF ribbon. The mix gets transposed again in the fur room, where the MDF walls were also painted rust to signify "the warmth of furs," the architect says. Meanwhile, along each of three sidewalls, another visual trick: Marino adhered smaller segments of the curvy travertine so they cantilevered surreally—gentle nests for handbags and the company's feathery light fur scarves.
Mindful of Fendi's dichotomous brand identity, Marino added another layer of contrast, this time smooth against notched. By running his ' fingers over wet plaster, the architect created the irregular line pattern etched onto the MDF ribbons. He repeated the technique on the MDF display cases as well. Machine-carved lines in the gray lava grigia floors emulate the ones made by hand. Using the human touch so literally to embellish surfaces addressed Fendi's tradition of craftsmanship.
While connecting the upstairs and downstairs, Marino saw a chance to make another clever gesture. The building already had a staircase that was grand, but he wanted fabulous. He painted it a rich gunmetal gray and embellished its center with a 24-foot-long vintage 1960's chandelier. The dramatic pendant fixture evokes images of Rome's famous fountains, and its square-shape pieces of Murano glass echo the outline of the double-F logo, though the latter was purely a coincidence. "You're supposed to come in and feel emotion," Marino says. "The same as you do with Fendi—and with Rome."