Being world-famous for creating remarkable building exteriors can sometimes be a drag for a star architect like Jean Nouvel. 'When Stefano Beraldo (CEO of Gruppo Coin) called me, he asked if I could just do the façade,' Nouvel notes of the Excelsior, his latest retail architectural project that debuted yesterday in Milan. 'I said, "No, I can't just do the façade." When I work on a building I have to create the relationship between the exterior and everything else that goes on inside.' Luckily, Beraldo saw the light. Annexing a forgotten corner of the city's grand Galleria del Corso, Nouvel has transformed a dusty old movie theatre into a 7-storey fashion, food and design emporium - his very first architectural imprint on the city of Milan.
Naturally, the façade is a stand-out feature. Razor sharp glazed aluminium slats are slightly angled to give a fiery peep show of fractured images projected from the LED screens that run along balustrades. 'I didn't want to reveal the images directly,' Nouvel insists, 'I wanted them to be temporal, as if they were sliding behind a window.'
Inside, the French architect has coated the walls of the old theatre with reflective paints that jump at the light beaming off LED screens. Each floor is disconnected from the perimeter, as if floating, and the multitude of balconies evoke the site's former theatre self.
Nouvel wasn't the only big name lured by the new retail project. Antonia Giacinti - owner of the Antonia multi-brand stores located in the city - served as a buying consultant, ensuring that cool labels such as Haider Ackermann, Proenza Schouler, Altuzarra and Isabel Marant finally found a home in Milan. Vincenzo De Cotiis coordinated the floor design, which features wood and steel fixtures as well as polished cement block displays. Finally, Davide Oldani, the hot shot chef behind D'O, served as a food consultant for the bottom two basement levels which feature take-out, bistro and restaurant services, plus a food market to rival the gloss and prices found at Peck.
Receive our daily digest of inspiration, escapism and design stories from around the world direct to your inbox
Learn sustainable life skills at Common Knowledge’s County Clare retreat
The Common Knowledge Centre for Sustainable Living is a workshop retreat from the social enterprise team behind the Tigín tiny home project
By Lizzie Gore-Grimes Published
The Houses at 8899 Beverly offer options, sustainability and modernist nods
The Houses at 8899 Beverly by Olson Kundig is a collection of sustainable townhouses framing a midcentury area landmark in the West Hollywood Design District
By Carole Dixon Published
Schofield unveils its Light watch, typical of its cool, subtle design
British watch brand Schofield unveils the Light watch in two iterations, each with monochrome contrast dials
By James Gurney Published