Since its arrival in 1974 on Via Montenapoleone, in the courtly building from the early 1800s at the corner with Via Gesù, the Milan boutique of Maison Cartier has interpreted the spirit of the times with refined savoir faire, as in all of its creations. Bruno Moinard and Claire Bétaille, the French architects who have created the brand’s boutiques around the world for over 20 years, had already intervened in 2012 to update the approximately 500 square meters of space organized on four levels, making this place a temple of the Cartier identity with its range of collections, from fine jewelry to timepieces, accessories to leather goods and fragrances.
Milan, design, nature
Now, thanks to extensive restyling, the store embodies a more strategic vision of the brand: a synesthetic setting that emphasizes the features of the city with which it establishes a close bond. At the same time, the upper level now contains La Résidence, a new flexible and versatile space with a green spirit designed by Stefano Boeri and Giorgio Donà: the interpretation on an experiential plane of an encounter between important references relating to Milan, design, and the living nature of flowers and plants. Through assonance and analogy, the sumptuously sober, brilliant and intriguing boutique becomes an architectural transposition of the art of transforming material, as practiced by Cartier. The architects explain the project for our readers.
The challenge of the new project
Bruno Moinard: “For us, the challenge was to rethink a boutique on which we had already worked in the past, making it become a more convivial, luminous and welcoming setting to convey the incomparable sensation to be experienced. For this reason, though keeping in mind the paradigm of reference of the Cartier boutique in Paris on Rue de la Paix, and still relying on the skills of the many crafts workshops specialized in making dreams come true, we have updated the underlying ‘champagne bronze’ layer, shifting towards softer, more delicate hues. Furthermore, we have revised the cross-section of every phase of the path, which now includes the encounter with the new areas for fragrances, custom creations and the versatile bar”.
The importance of detail
Bruno Moinard: “Amidst renewed perspectives and cabinets des curiosités, pale wood, shiny/matte brass, mosaics and white marble, the composition delves deep into every detail, meaning that not everything is immediately perceptible at first glance: the organic forms of the display islands and lounge areas, the patterns of straw inlays, the pearly lacquer finishes, precious glass, sculpted plaster, the diamond motifs on the walls and ceilings. The objective is to ensure that visitors enter and return to Maison Cartier many times, and at ever visit, every passage, they should find the pleasant surprise of new enchantment. The partial two-story zones of the entrance level play with the light and shadow of true theater sets, first of all in reference to Teatro alla Scala. The narration interprets the elegance of the Milanese style of the great masters, such as Gio Ponti in the marble surfaces cladding the architecture. Then there is a new landscape to be discovered, echoes of vegetation and light, moving to the upper levels, where foliage appears, especially with ivy, where the iconic Cartier panther ‘moves,’ hollowed in the grosgrain surfaces of the perimeter walls of the staircase”.
A remodeled and fluid space
Claire Bétaille: “The basic idea was to empty the space and make it fluid, easy to reshape, with a series of elements for more flexible, versatile use, getting back to a favorite term of the company’s present, Cyrille Vigneron. To make visitors feel at home, inviting them to explore the progressive episodes of a promenade: this is the direction of our intervention, and of the meaningful presence of sparkling items that enhance the depths of the spaces as décor, suggesting the precious quality of jewelry. Anyone who enters becomes an actor inside these sets. On the wall in front of the entrance, in place of what was an internal courtyard, the junction of vertical connections has been renewed in terms of facings: ivory-white marble for the steps, glass texturized with gold tulle for the elevator shaft. We should not forget that Milan is still a city with a secret soul, hidden inside its most beautiful buildings: the concealed garden on the upper level is gradually revealed as one proceeds to discover all the spaces”.
Sumptuous and minimal
Stefano Boeri: “We were asked to imagine a comfortable, accessible Milanese apartment, without being pretentious – reflecting the style and tradition of Cartier – in a small space on the upper level, with a little terrace amidst the rooftops of Milan. Taking measures on the constructed enclosure (such as moving the safe and the back-office), we have created a versatile place – a container of activities that are not purely commercial – capable of becoming a zone for socializing, encounters, presentations, music. La Résidence is composed of three different spaces – the terrace, the lounge and the disappearing kitchen – which can be reorganized in response to different needs, in two or three parts, or in a unified whole, by means of a very flexible system of mobile elements. Our project comes from careful study of the relationship between sumptuous and minimal, two typical characteristics of Cartier, and of a certain noble tradition in Milan. With very rigorous forms, this led to the choice of using marble and grafts of Italian Serpeggiante, silks and velvets, mirror panels. All elements that represent points of encounter with the Cartier philosophy, but also the style of a typically Milanese portion of modern architecture, if we think about great masters like Gio Ponti, Piero Portaluppi, Luigi Caccia Dominioni, Vico Magistretti, who worked with very precious materials in keeping with a logic that was not purely decorative”.
Nature to build space
Giorgio Donà: “We have tried to generate an immediately perceptible sensation of openness when you reach the level of La Résidence. A multitude of planes of transparency, to present but not to fully reveal the central feature of the project: the terrace surrounded by a system of low plants and shrubs, ferns and climbing plants, which also enter the interiors. The continuity between the two spaces is underlined by a marble ‘tub-vase’ in marble, and by the lines of the sofa that extends beside it for the entire length of the double, indoor-outdoor salon. Nature becomes an element of spatial construction, also thanks to the perimeter windows, which in the spirit of the flexibility described by Stefano can be completely opened, while continuing to comply with the very high standards of security required for such a facility. A partition with mirror-finish panels divides and unites the internal lounge and the more convivial zone, connected on the opposite side to the kitchen, formed by two sliding ‘doors’ that can be folded into the wall when necessary. Customized thanks to an innovative technical system, they are covered in red silk and form a continuous surface with the wall paneling, which conceals other functions, for the access door to the restrooms and the emergency exit. As a counterpart, there is the “secret showcase,” a display fixture for the marvelous objects of Cartier, placed in symmetry and on axis with the terrace-garden. Its Verde Alpi facing indicates a strong connection with the natural and mineral character of the space. The continuous flooring in cream-ivory marble, which also returns in the stairwell, is marked by a texture of blocks in Italian Serpeggiante, which seek a new dialogue with the range of reds, greens, gold and champagne nuances typical of the Cartier boutiques”.
Project Agence Moinard Bétaille, Stefano Boeri interiors - Photos Neri Oddo/Courtesy Cartier