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Staircase at Giorgio Armani: Classic 2010 Architecture

Massimiliano Fuksas is the name of the architect who designed the grand staircase in the newly renovated Giorgio Armani Store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. It is the centerpiece of the store, overshadowing even the clothing designer himself. The design can be considered representative of what has become a movement in architecture. Pushing the limits of construction, this work is singular in retail design, one which cannot be easily made appropriate by most venues. It exists along side the designs of the other starchitects—Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry, Daniel Libeskind, Santiago Calatrava, Rem Koolhaas.

Apparently every stair was fabricated in Italy, and shipped to Manhattan to be installed on site. The execution of the treads are immaculate.  The rest of the staircase, I’m not so sure. When you look closely, it seems as if they may have cut some corners, and hired unskilled day-laborers to do the plaster/drywall work. It is a bit rough, and not executed in the pristine manner one would expect.

Also, if you peer up, to the underside of the treads and risers, you’ll see another area not completely resolved.  Did they forget that people would be looking at the underside of the staircase when they walk down.  Not really sure.  What you do see are all the little imperfections in execution.

The stairs wind, turn, weave, and slide the shopper from one floor to another. Perhaps a precursor to a more organic escalator design? Men’s clothes, women’s clothes, casual, formal, a restaurant, and even a chocolatier exist in this futuristic market. The shops are dark, not just a little, but dark like the back room of an East Village bar, where you have to feel around for the merchandise.

Speirs and Major were hired to do the lighting for not just the stairs but also the buildings exterior lighting. Very subtle, true designers, they allow their work to take a back seat to the whole creation. The lights of the stairs are hidden underneath the rail, which gives a beautiful glow from below for the actors who dramatically ascend and descend the establishment.

I’m very excited to see where architecture will take us in the next decade. We are building stronger, lighter, organic, complex structures that historically have never been conceived, much less executed in reality. There must be some references to nature going on in these unique spaces. I cannot place it yet. Also for the first time, you see the glass box being combined with curvilinear forms, which are other-worldly. It’s difficult to imagine that even this too will become dated.  I’m not sure that it will ever become commonplace, however.

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