Luxury Goods pix
At Louis Vuitton in Nagoya, Eric Carlson gives a new twist to the Japanese art of gift wrapping
Christine Schwartz Hartley -- Interior Design, 4/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
Nagaishi Architecture's facade for Louis Vuitton in Nagoya, Japan, features powder-coated aluminum bars sandwiched between glass walls.
Carbondale's store interior faces a busy intersection in front and connects to a mall in back.
Stainless steel panels the elevator interior.
Custom benches allow men to try on shoes.
The mezzanine can be glimpsed through powder-coated aluminum rods.
Double-helix staircases link all three levels.
On the ground level, aluminum extrusions capped in polished stainless steel take the shape of Louis Vuitton flowers. Rubber is stretched across the ceiling.
Sandstone inserts punctuate the limestone floor.
The staircases' low-iron glass balustrades and limestone steps wrap around suspended steel bars. Flooring on the mezzanine is teak.
Flower extrusions rain down practically everywhere but a top-level display area for women's ready-to-wear.
The top-floor VIP room's 1950's advertising poster was chosen as a reference to Nagoya's place as Japan's automotive capital.
Custom ottomans furnish women's shoes on the top level.
Shelving combines bleached and unbleached anigré.
Women's wear meets jewelry.
On the top level, vintage and antique trunks are mounted alongside a projection of Louis Vuitton's face.
Eric Carlson calls the upper landing the void.
It may be modesty, good manners, or just that he really likes to give credit where credit is due. Whatever the reason, the first thing Eric Carlson does when asked about his Louis Vuitton store in Nagoya, Japan, is praise the facade, a design by Nagaishi Architecture. Made of twisted, powder-coated aluminum bars arranged vertically between glass walls, this shimmering envelope shifts optically during daylight hours as well as after dark, when it's illuminated by metal halides. Carlson says he saw the building's exterior as a reference to the Japanese art of gift wrapping, with Vuitton's contemporary yet classic leather goods, shoes, and men's and women's ready-to-wear as the gifts "inside this precious box."
The former director of Vuitton's architecture department, Carlson left the company to found his own architecture firm, Carbondale, in 2004, then went on to design the flagship on the Champs-Elysées—now Paris's seventh-most-visited destination, drawing up to 4,000 people a day on weekends. So you might think he'd choose to rest on his laurels. The 9,600-square-foot multilevel Nagoya boutique, his eleventh outpost for the luxury brand, proves otherwise.
Most remarkable, a mysterious cloud of a mezzanine floats at the shop's core, wrapped around double-helix staircases. Paying homage to the twisting facade as well as the double stair at France's Château de Chambord, the spiral ramp at New York's Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and vortexes dancing in Carlson's mind's eye, this stunningly realized composition of clear glass, white powder-coated aluminum rods, and cream limestone plays a crucial role in the way visitors negotiate the space. And the existence of valid functional reasons for what some would regard as a folly makes its exquisite elegance all the more wondrous.
Those reasons became evident to Carlson when he first considered the space. Occupying a corner of a large shopping center, the boutique has three entrances. One is from the street; the other two are from the mall's ground and second levels. Because the ground level of the boutique shared the mall's 23-foot ceiling height, Vuitton customers would have faced a daunting climb to reach the upstairs. "Well, most people aren't going to bother," Carlson reasoned. But what if he inserted a mezzanine?
"As people walk into the shop, you give them something floating in the middle, cloudlike. They're intrigued enough to go up and see what's happening," he continues. "We thought of a Renaissance collar, which is light but has a very strong, sculptural form in contrast to the orthogonality of the rest of the space." Further ensuring that shoppers would be sucked into the vortex, swallowed by the cloud, he designated the mezzanine as the main display venue for the leather goods on which the 153-year-old brand built its fame.
The mezzanine's teak floor and anigré paneling, display fixtures, and furniture create a warm oasis between the spare upper and lower levels. By contrast, the level below is suitably masculine, thanks to striped rugs and a limestone floor with rectangular sandstone insets. The top level, almost virginally white, is about female perfection. In a museumlike cube of an upper corner, Carlson mounted vintage and antique trunks on the wall diagonally opposite a quasi-religious video projection on the company's history.
On all three levels, ceilings are magical upside-down fields of Vuitton's signature four-petal flowers, extruded in aluminum. Each curved stem is capped in polished stainless steel or brass or simply powder-coated white. Scattered among them, spotlights shine like stars.
Meticulously considered and perfectly pitched, the Nagoya boutique allows shoppers to indulge themselves with grace and ease. Not bad for a man from Carbondale, Illinois, who claims that, when a headhunter called him about the Louis Vuitton job in 1997, he didn't even recognize the name. "I thought," Carlson admits, "that might be the person who was going to interview me."
Chua Xin Jie Shin - 2008-05-01 22:48:00 EDT
HI.I'm a tertiery student from Singapore.Can i have your permission for me to use these photos for my school project? Thanks
John Shannon - 2008-03-08 23:05:00 EST
Striking Designs - I'm wondering whether anyone in the project team came across a rather unsual piece of furniture at the Nagoya store - that being a piece by designer Yuko Torii called "Trunk for a Voyage to Mars"?