Window on the world

The opening in New York of a project by Vincent Van Duysen, namely the flagship store of Molteni Group to host all three of its brands. A theatrical entrance leads to interiors featuring noble materials and colors that reference the frescos of villas in Northern Italy

 

Project Vincent Van Duysen – Article Valentina Croci

 

“A project that translates Italian style and elegance in the interpretation of a classic New York building,” says Vincent Van Duysen, regarding the new flagship store of Gruppo Molteni at 160 Madison Avenue, in the new NoMad Design District in Manhattan.

The first monobrand store was opened in 2008 in SoHo, but today this ‘lifestyle store’ with an area of 1200 square meters brings together the worlds of the home, with the brands Molteni&C and Dada, and the office, with UniFor, in a situation of ever-growing synergy.

The initiative confirms Gruppo Molteni’s commitment to the US market, its largest outside of Italy, covering 71% of total exports. The project conserves certain original characteristics of the building, such as the volumes and the height of the ceilings.

Four large streetfront windows display the variegated range of materials used in the interiors. The dramatic entrance, composed of an open entryway with two full-height glass screens, leads to the iconic staircase clad in walnut.

The interior design plays with the dividers in the large spaces, alternating with gateways faced in travertine, which is also used for the floors. “We have brought a contemporary interpretation of an Italian palazzo to Madison Avenue, as reference to the deep cultural background of the company,” Van Duysen explains.

“The store suggests the historic works of architecture of Northern Italy through the use of materials and fabrics. The travertine of the floors and the monumental arches adds a rigorous image, while keeping the atmosphere warm and welcoming. The use of colors links back to the antique frescos found in Lombardy.”

Van Duysen intervenes in an existing building: “Though the existing spaces were very large, the presence of big concrete columns created difficulties, since they are positioned in an apparently random way,” he continues. “Besides the specific layout needs of Molteni&C, Dada and UniFor – the latter with installations by Dante Bonuccelli – the challenge was to ‘avoid’ those columns, creating unexpected routes and a varied succession of spaces.

In most cases the columns have been concealed, while in other rooms they become part of the interior design. The composition of the facades was also complex, because the new project had to comply with the guidelines set down by the owners of the building, as well as very specific technical parameters.”

The choice of finishes also has a big impact on the interior design: “The walls are covered with stucco with a rugged texture, in earthy tones. The palette is borrowed from the frescos of Northern Italy. The ceilings are in plaster and wood, with or without beams, depending on the function of the room. To make the spaces more flexible with respect to the displays we have chosen a system of spotlights on tracks, while in the stairwell there is a chandelier by Michael Anastassiades produced by Flos.” The central walnut staircase is clearly the store’s masterpiece.

The new location on Madison Avenue reflects the investment program of Gruppo Molteni in North America. “We have been a presence since 1978 with UniFor and a direct sales affiliate to work in this complex, demanding market, especially in the world of the office,” says Giulia Molteni, marketing and communication director of Molteni&C and Dada.

“Over the last 15 years the activity of the brands Molteni&C and Dada has also grown in both the retail and contract sectors, making the United States our foremost export market. With this store we emphasize the synergy between the world of the office and that of the home.

Today they are both combined with art thanks to the collaboration of a curator, Caroline Corbetta, who with Frutta Gallery has selected a series of works by contemporary artists, creating an ecosystem in which design and art enhance each other.

New York is a strategic choice with high potential: it is a center of prestigious works of architecture, like the MoMA Tower or the complexes on Leonard Street, important reference points for Dada. And it represents the hub from which international projects spread out into the rest of the world.”