Parent company LVMH Moët Hennessy intended this to be Louis Vuitton's biggest retail store in the world; to be built on some of most regulated real estate in the world; and to be unveiled in time for thousands of A-listers jetting in from all over the world to fête Louis Vuitton's 150th anniversary in February 2004.
The site was the 11-story New York Trust Co. building, designed by Cross & Cross in 1930, located on the northeast corner of 57th Street. The lower portion of the original white marble facade had been altered by Warner Bros.
Unlike the SoHo LV store, which respectfully incorporates allusions to that neighborhood's cast-iron heritage, architect Jun Aoki had the freedom to transform the stolid art deco exterior into a destination with multifaceted 21st Century appeal. Aoki conceived of the glass façade as a playfully sleek meditation on crystalline transparency and clouded translucency. Passersby experience a teasing optical illusion by day and a diffused streetlamp-through-fog appearance by night.
At 20,000 square feet, the store's interior, designed by Peter Marino (New York) with LV Paris, was one of the largest retail spaces the LVMH store planning department ever worked on. More steel had to be added to the existing structure to support the new façade. Then there was the WB movie theater that had to be converted back to a level floor and structurally recorrected for use as office space. Plus there were tons of wacky cartoon character detritus and candy machines left behind, such as the Superman who had formerly "supported" the old glass elevator and gargantuan Ninja Turtles.
The damier checker pattern on the exterior is also the dominant interior motif: Grids and double-square rectangles are wittily integrated throughout the floors, in the checkerboard rugs, the double-square millwork for the product displays and the (quite literally) flashy LED "Feature Wall." The wall climbs from the ground floor up three stories to the top of the retail volume and is visible from outside the store. It can shift into 60 different spectrum colors, ranging from jewel-tone intense to misty pastel. It also functions as a screen for still images and films. Other interior highlights include: a wall of vintage trunks hovering above the periphery of the ground floor dotted with red hat cases evoking the 1943 Piet Mondrian painting, "Broadway Boogie Woogie," and the cantilevered bronze-clad monotube staircase.
CLIENT: Louis Vuitton, Paris
John Mulliken, vp, store planning and development, New York
DESIGN: Peter Marino & Associates, New York
Peter Marino, principal
Maria Wilthew, project manager
Paul Garrett, architect
OUTSIDE CONSULTANTS: Jun Aoki & Associates, Tokyo (façade design)
George Sexton Associates, Washington, D.C./New York (interior design)
Laszlo-Bodak Engineers, New York (M/E/P design)
Severud Associates, New York (structural design)
Robert A. Heintges Architects, New York (curtain wall design)
ARCHITECT: The Phillips Group, New York
Vincent Iacobellis, principal
Larry Archer, Doris Almanza-McLean, project architects
GENERAL CONTRACTOR: Shawmut Design and Construction, Boston/New York
ARMOURCOAT PLASTERING: Fresno Decorative Painting, New York
AUDIO/VISUAL: Audio Visual Design, Rego Park, N.Y.
FIXTURES: Schmidt Tradition, St. Maur Cedex, France
Canus Construction, Edmonton, Alb.
FACADE: Josef Gartner & Co., Wan Chai, Hong Kong
FLOORING: Fantini Mosaic, Miami
WFI Intl., Delran, N.J.
CARPETING: Edward Fields, New York
FURNITURE: Cassina, Milan, Italy
LIGHTING: United Displays, Buckinghamshire, U.K.
Litelab Corp., Buffalo, N.Y.
SIGNAGE/GRAPHICS: United Sign, Staten Island, N.Y.
WALL COVERINGS AND MATERIALS: Big Apple Visual Group, New York
PHOTOGRAPHY: Jimmy Cohrssen Photography, Paris/Washington, D.C./New York