The project is a Marc by Marc Jacobs café and retail store located on the Piazza del Carmine in Milan’s historic Brera district. The Brera district is known for its narrow streets lined with apartment buildings that have shops on the ground floor. The café and store occupy the full ground floor of a 16th century building adjacent to Santa Maria del Carmine – a 15th century church built for the first duke of Milan. The existing space was previously divided into three separate storefronts; all existing interior partitions were removed to create one large, open floor plan. The design creates an integrated environment that uses an open plan to disperse areas of activity and produce a flexible hybrid space that transforms from daytime to nighttime functions.
The immediate challenge of the project was to create an architectural strategy, a tripartite scheme, that would allow both the store and café to overlap and interact at certain times; while, at other times, be separated to serve their specific functions. This was achieved by employing a series of thresholds to define a transitional space between the store and café. This area exists within the two bays defined by the frameless sliding blue glass door at the bar and a hidden metal roll-down gate at the sales floor. During the day, the connection between the store and café is open. After store hours, the bar is restricted by the blue glass wall to just three bays, but expands to five bays to accommodate special parties and events. The transitional space or hybrid exists between the pull of the store and the café. Depending on the hour and needs of the client it is enveloped by one program or the other.
The retail store was positioned within the building’s seven western-most bays with its entrance facing the piazza. Organized to address the piazza and the linearity of the space, the fixtures are oriented on the long access to accentuate the length of the space. New frameless windows were inserted into eight of the building’s twelve south-facing arched bays to unify the existing façade and allow clear views from the piazza into the store and café. The previously mentioned, frameless sliding blue glass wall separates the café/ bar by physically breaking this long axis from the retail area. Housed within the building’s three eastern-most bays, the café and transitional space were designed as a visual extension of the store. The 6-meter-long bar is clad in white Thassos marble that serves as the main point of service for the café. Every element for the space is custom designed for the client, including new polished-stainless steel/grey concrete café tables, as well as leather/polished-stainless steel bar stools and chairs. To further define the space, a large, layered light fixture serves as a focal point for the café space. It is the feature which draws visitors to the café at night from the Piazza del Carmine and surrounding streets.