Notes on a retail space itinerary, by Interior Design students

by Cristian Riccardi, SPD’s student

A journey to the centre of internal design. This was the day which saw the Master in Interior Design students on a pilgrimage through the best-known flagship stores in Milan. They walked the city centre streets from the brand new B&B Store to the Armani Store to end up at dadriade

This Open Lesson is part of Patricia Viel’s (Studio Citterio&Partners)course. The students are working with her on an actual retail project. But the experience, which was certainly illuminating from a space design point of view, could also have a lot to say about emerging trends in furniture and furnishings. In fact, the defining line between the research into materials for industrial production and the formal experimentation which gives them value in spaces was not clear. In some settings it’s the objects which tell a personal story whereas the surrounding space is there to emphasise it and let it explode in the visitors’ eyes. In other settings their sheer volume amalgamates every form and material in a wider and more homogenous argument: every single element takes part in its construction and defines a specific rule in the spatial grammar.

B&B store Italia: not just furniture

The design of the B&B Store emphasises the objects which it displays by creating spaces which recreate life’s central moments in a domestic setting. The Maxalto label, which is in its own clearly defined area, is obvious through the characteristic elements of style which make it stand apart in the Paris showroom as well. A broad platform which looks onto the enormous main space is closed off by tall parapets that, along with the low ceiling, create a warm, intimate atmosphere which is perfect for the furniture being presented. Carpeting finishes off the building work in the bedroom area, which is marked apart from the others where you walk on black cement.
The task of relating the firm’s history and mission has been left to the graphics which run up the opaque and transparent verticals playfully superimposing onto the furniture on display. A corner of the lower ground floor has a garden with wood and intense light; it doesn’t have any plants though, as a point of arrival after rugs, armchairs and numerous items for the home.
The strength of the company in reinterpreting its own evolution is clear in several aspects: the original reuse of two previous shops which have now been merged into one single space; the canvasses which filter light coming from the roof windows; the reconstruction of ideal rooms; the contrast between, on the one hand, basic materials like iron and cement together with clean, simple ones such as crystal and, on the other hand, the rich presence of furniture characterised by formal research and wealth of contents.
Is that enough about the shopping experience? The interaction with the visitor is still static and the graphics don’t manage to carry all the communication off.

Armani Store: elegance and strength
As you enter you’re blinded by the sheer white which characterises every surface. From the floor to the roof and the walls, apart from the odd exception, white light designs forms and spaces. Clothes, hi-fi equipment, plants, sweets, furniture, various design objects are distributed throughout the different floors which are connected by escalators. There’s even a well-known Japanese restaurant with a sushi bar where you can comfortably leaf through architecture and design books bought on the first floor.
In the store’s central area the spaces are broad but more enclosed in the display areas where there are different lifestyles and genres among the illuminated shelves and rugs. In comparison to the B&B Store the starting matrix here is the vision of the shopping centre: a huge screen showing labels being modelled in fashion shows and various shops around the escalators design an open, free space. The designers have wanted to reflect in these settings the quality and formal research which set apart the label collections: the playful use of water and the arrangement of plants in the flower shop invokes an oriental garden; inviting chocolates go with jams in the space for sweets. The exaggerated amount of space given up to DVD players and ultra-flat screens brings the technology which design conceals to an extreme point.

dadriade: a new world
After visiting B&B and the Armani Store, the driade shop reeks of the workshop. Long, narrow spaces take you to areas in the back where design objects are protected by roofs with frescoes and paintings from the last century. It’s a contrast which makes you appreciate all the more the value of the settings and the experimental simplicity of new forms and objects. Here as well, little islands recall moments from a dinner or a pleasantly unexpected garden in the courtyard of the building which houses the shop. Design is breathed in but in the corridors light, which comes from countless sources expressing different styles, seems to be fighting to make space for itself in the confusion of forms and colours.
The display in the shop is so tight and compact that every way you turn there is certainly something to catch your attention. So when you come to leave you almost don’t remember a thing but in your hands there’s a shopping bag held tight. December, time of gifts.

  • beb
  • armani
  • dadriade