PARIS – ‘There’s an interesting echo between jewellery and architecture,’ says OMA partner Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli, discussing the project his office realized for Italian luxury jeweller Repossi on Place Vendôme. Jewellery and architecture – an intersection that Laparelli defines as two disciplines investing in the human body – is exemplified by the Paris store. Repossi is a jewellery house whose work under artistic director Gaia Repossi links the minute scale of jewellery to the more environmental concerns of architecture. OMA quite literally mirrored the brand’s philosophy, mediating architecture and display through a series of kinetic elements that refract into smaller, individual experiences. The concept, says Laparelli, is based on ‘architecture that is not just a backdrop but something activated by the interaction of people’ – never merely reflecting, but offering a layer of distortion.
Architect and client share a systematic approach that involves research and analysis. It allows Repossi to operate at a rhythm that is more attuned than that of other jewellery houses to the quicker, seasonal pace of the fashion industry. Fluctuating tempos – fast, slow and very slow – inspired the three distinctive levels of the Paris fit-out. From OMA’s perspective, the depth of its research process meant that certain elements of Repossi’s heritage – the colour of the gems, a certain linearity of form – found their way into the interiors organically, almost by accident.
Each level is a highly articulated and deftly executed manoeuvre, elegantly optimizing the store’s 90-m2 footprint. The ground floor is designed as a fast-paced ‘grab and go’ counter, where Repossi’s most popular products are easily accessible. This space features a three-sided, rotating billboard wall of the type used for outdoor advertising, which can transform from displaying promotional imagery to presenting one of two mirrored faces of either silver or bronze. A strong connection to the iconic location was established by making the ground floor an extension of the square, a visual link underscored by open windows on the mezzanine.
All three floors are connected by a large central staircase, the repetition of vertical metal railings adding to the optical illusion produced by the shiny materials that attract attention at entrance level. Downstairs, a vault-like basement winds back to a slower pace, ideal for the personalized attention given to shoppers immersing themselves in Repossi’s most precious collections. Bronze gradations that shift vertically on mirrored walls darken as they spiral around the space. Some of Gaia’s personal pieces of furniture by Donald Judd enhance the customer salon and complement the angular simplicity of those designed by OMA.
The gallery-like first floor accommodates the majority of Repossi’s range. Here, gradationally tinted mirrored walls are rendered opaque with special coatings designed by Dutch designer Sabine Marcelis. The tiers of a cylindrical display case in copper-coated brushed aluminium pivot on an axis, reiterating the kinetic interactivity that OMA wanted to achieve, a shift from the more standard static presentation of jewellery. OMA collaborated with custom display company Goppion, which usually works with museums such as the Louvre to craft highly sophisticated settings. Goppion also designed the central unit on the ground floor – a stylized, contemporary interpretation of old-school haberdashery storage.
The materials palette deliberately departs from the classic wood, carpet and marble used in more traditional high-end retail to celebrate the new chapter in Repossi’s evolution. Aluminium – in a variety of finishes and applications – appears throughout the space, while resin and mirrors are also atypical choices. Among the materials that OMA selected for the project are a ‘foam terrazzo’ for the stair flooring. Made from a lightweight, durable aluminium foam developed by NASA (and previously seen in the Prada Foundation in Milan), the silver substance is filled with white resin to create a flat surface – but one with a textured effect.