ROME — Giorgio Armani is breaking new ground in Italy.
This story first appeared in the July 15, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The designer and a group of partners are creating 62 exclusive apartments in an historic 19th-century, six-building complex near the Colosseum here with 24-hour concierge service to deal with everything from babysitting to dog walking. It is the country’s first full-service apartment complex and is set to debut in the spring.
“I thought it was such an innovative concept for Italy,” Armani said. “And Rome…it’s so fascinating and poetic. The idea of bringing my Armani Casa lifestyle in the heart of one of the most beautiful cities in the world appeared as a beguiling challenge.” The designer noted he created his home division with such prospects in mind.
Armani said this was the first time he was collaborating “on a true regeneration of historical buildings.” The designer defined the project, named Cavour220 after its address, as “a complex architectural project,” not only in terms of interior design, but also at the level of construction and restoration.
Construction was delayed for more than eight months because ancient Roman archeological finds were uncovered on the site — more than 1,000 pieces, which will be on display in the common areas of the complex, and will comprise 110,160 square feet of residential space.
Armani’s partners are the international investment firm Doughty Hanson & Co. European Real Estate Fund II, developer Europa Risorse and broker John Taylor.
At the unveiling of the first showcase triplex apartment in Rome last week, Edward Bates, senior principal at Doughty Hanson, which has investing assets of 2 billion euros, or $2.78 billion, championed the project despite a slowdown in real estate during the global recession.
“Are we crazy to be doing this now? No. Rome needs and wants a new way of living, exciting and innovative, where history meets modernity,” Bates said.
Antonio Napoleone, president of Europa Risorse, said the total cost of the condominium project is 140 million euros, or $194.6 million at current exchange rate. Apartment prices will range from 1 million euros, or $1.39 million, to 8 million euros, or $11.1 million.
Armani said he is designing the space, including the common areas such as reception, spa and lounge bar, as well as apartment layouts, with an international client in mind, “businessmen and women, actors, socialites.”
Fabrice Gouffran, Armani Casa and Hotels division director, said “site-specific Armani Casa pieces” are being designed for Cavour220. Owners will be able to choose from two different Casa collections, the more traditional Classic furnishings or the younger Contemporary, or ask the division’s team of architects for other solutions.
“This is bespoke interior design,” Napoleone said. “Armani Casa gives the development a precise identity, a lifestyle experience.”
Owners can select non-Armani designs for their individual apartments, a departure from the Armani residences being built under an agreement with Dubai-based real estate developer Emaar Properties.
An 80-member team, including 25 architects and interior designers, make up the Casa division, which marks its 10th anniversary this year and had sales of 40 million euros, or $58.8 million at average exchange rate, in 2008. Casa interior design studios have been established in Milan, London, Paris and New York.
Under the watch of Italy’s archeological superintendent, the design team is restoring the complex, which includes a former convent with 10-meter-high ceilings and a tower overlooking the Imperial Forums. Rare plants will be brought back to the more than 9,500 square feet of terraced gardens.
“Green areas are essential,” said Armani, because they contribute to a welcoming and comfortable venue. “In sync with a city that alternates monuments and wonderful gardens,” he added.
The “apartments will be essential, simple, in a contemporary and rigorous design,” Armani said. At the same time, however, their interior design “will respect the architectural structure and the city, without jerks or contrasts. In total harmony.”
Each apartment will have its own specific plan, but finishings include marmorino plaster or typically Roman materials such as travertine stone, contrasting with Eramosa limestone or vaults coated in liquid metal. Colors are in line with Armani’s staple palette, from beige to gray, with touches of black and tobacco brown.
As for the concierge service, the designer said Italy is lagging. “We still need to develop a culture of service in Italy,” he said. “When I travel, especially in the East, I notice the difference….Cavour220 is a strong signal in that sense.”