WATER WORKS: “The most successful luxury stores in China are always the empty ones,” said the Beijing-based, German-born architect Ole Scheeren during a cocktail party in Venice at the floating cinema of his own design. “People who spend the real money don’t stay for long. They spend hundreds of thousands of dollars — and then they leave.” Scheeren, who worked with Rem Koolhaas on the Prada stores in New York and Los Angeles, said he has some new luxury retail projects in the pipeline, but declined to give details.
The party at the Archipelago Cinema, which was floating in Venetian waters near the Arsenale, the main venue of the city’s biannual architecture show, was cohosted by Scheeren and Wallpaper magazine, with help from the KT Wong Foundation, which forges cultural relationships between China and the rest of the world. The event was one of many that kicked off the city’s 13th International Architecture Exhibition that began earlier this week and runs through the end of November. During the mild, balmy evening, guests watched the screening of a documentary based on Scheeren’s work and produced by Horst Brandenburg.
The architecture biennale has been directed this year by the British architect David Chipperfield, who recently completed Valentino’s store on Via Montenapoleone. Chipperfield said he liked the Valentino experience so much he’s going back for more. “We’re working with them on projects in New York and Paris,” he said Tuesday, on the sidelines of a talk about this year’s theme, common ground in architecture. The Valentino store on New York’s Madison Avenue will reopen this year.
Earlier on Tuesday, Kazuyo Sejima, a partner in the Japanese architecture practice SANAA and the director of the last biennale, was named as a Rolex mentor in architecture. Rolex has this year extended its mentoring program to architecture, and Sejima will join fellow mentors Margaret Atwood, Gilberto Gil and William Kentridge in the Swiss watchmaker’s global philanthropy program, which helps emerging talent in various artistic fields.
“Toyo Ito was my mentor,” said Sejima, referring to the architect whose conceptual designs include the Tod’s headquarters and boutique in Tokyo. “When you’re starting out, you’re thinking in two dimensions, but reality is about three dimensions, and that’s a very difficult thing. I learned a lot from Mr. Ito.”
And of all the architects to take to the stage in Venice so far, it was Sejima who was the best dressed. Decked in a white Prada sleeveless dress, gray knee socks and chunky wooden platform sandals from Celine, she admitted she suffers for her look. “They’re a little hard to walk in, that’s true,” she said of her footwear. “But I’m short, and I need the height.”