The Rinascente is one of Milan’s timeless retail institutions, so when we heard about the ongoing works at the department store’s new Rome outpost, we knew the brand’s second flagship would be just as exciting. Within a building created by a rich roaster of architects and designers, British firm Lifschutz Davidson Sandiland’s contribution focuses on the store’s top level and the interior’s very important relationship with the outdoors.

Situated in the heart of the Eternal City, mere steps away from the Trevi Fountain and Piazza di Spagna, the new Rinascente brings its sophisticated mix of fashion, beauty care, design, and gourmet food to Rome.

This was not about a quick fix. LDS has been working on this project for five years – and this is not the London based practice’s first foray into retail either. Back in 2005, the same architects were entrusted with the redesign of a considerable part of the Milan’s flagship. The firm also contributed to the retail brand’s Cagliari venue in 2014. For Rome, the team worked on the building’s top floor and terraces, which include the store’s food market, as well as restaurant, bar and café.

Aiming to create a distinctive food, retail and leisure destination, the architects blurred the boundaries between indoors and outdoors, merging skilfully the Rinascente’s modern interiors with the terraces, where visitors can enjoy the pleasant Rome weather and take in the city’s iconic views. Bringing in light was a key part of this plan, as was the use of the ceiling as a main architectural feature. Here, this meant a ceiling grid infilled ‘by open coffers filled with gently waving translucent louvres diffusing natural and artificial light’, they explain. 

The terraces, carefully protected from the Mediterranean sun by canopies made out of fabric sails, are framed by a tactile timber pergola which carries the geometry of the internal atrium out. Open spaces meet with a glass balustrade that maximises the location’s wide vistas over the Roman rooftops.