MILAN — Bulgari pays tribute to Milan with its Via Montenapoleone flagship, which just reopened after a six-month extensive restyling developed by Silvia Schwarzer, Bulgari senior director of architecture and visual, who further elaborated the concept defined by Peter Marino, a longtime go-to architect for the company.
“References to the architecture of Rome and Bulgari’s distinctive elements remain here, but Milan’s status as the city of design is emphasized throughout the store,” said Silvia Schwarzer, the company’s senior director of architecture and visuals. She pointed to the importance of Milan for Bulgari, as the city where the jewelry firm opened its first hotel.
In particular, the flagship honors Milan’s Thirties design and architect Piero Portaluppi and his masterpiece Villa Necchi Campiglio, built in 1935. Case in point: The store’s ceilings and partitioning walls are decorated with a diamond-shaped motif, which are also present in the villa and is the same pattern that appears on the facade of the brand’s boutique on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The vaulted ceiling above the accessories displays is also a clear reference to Portaluppi’s style.
The flagship first opened in 2006 and covers more than 3,000 square feet over one floor. Two chandeliers that were originally produced for Villa Namazee in Tehran hang at the opposite ends of the store, with details, such as the stars, that are also typical of Bulgari’s imagery. The two chandeliers are part of a set of five — two others are in the New York store and the company is still seeking to buy the fifth, Schwarzer said.
A winter garden that mirrors one in Villa Necchi Campiglio stands out with floors in Lasa marble worked as a mosaic with Bois Jourdan marble and porphyry and an impressive floral installation by Japanese artist Azuma Makoto, who has collaborated with the likes of Dries Van Noten and Hermès. Through the Italian flowers in bright colors reminiscent of Bulgari’s jewels, Makoto conceived it by modeling it after Portaluppi’s diamond design. “The installation will last six months and will then be replaced by another floral design,” said Schwarzer, noting it reproduces the same pattern of Villa Necchi’s floor but applied to a vertical wall.
One of the most important pieces in the winter garden is the first 1978 prototype of Alessandro Mendini’s Proust armchair.
An original table by Paolo Buffa; chairs by Ico Parisi, and bookshelves and tables by Angelo Mangiarotti also contribute to the mood. Original Giò Ponti lamps from the Sixties are positioned on displays inspired by Carlo Scarpa.
Floors are in white travertine — a clear nod to Rome — enriched with a geometric decoration, while Serravezza marble profiles the doors. The eight-point star in red porphyry inlaid on the floor is the same seen at the entrance of the storied Bulgari boutique in Via dei Condotti in Rome, which opened in 1905.
In sync with Bulgari’s haute joaillerie collection called “Wild Pop” that was presented in June and plays on Eighties’ themes and the collaboration between Andy Warhol and the company, a number of works by the late artist add color to the walls, including a beautiful “Birth of Venus” inspired by Sandro Botticelli and a portrait of Elizabeth Taylor — a loyal Bulgari customer.
The central marble table by architect Angelo Mangiarotti was redesigned by Marino, thanks to a collaboration with furniture company Agape that allows Bulgari to reproduce the designs by the late architect, explained Schwarzer. Another example are the bookshelves in the private room. Different versions of the table stand in both the New York and London stores, “with the goal to bring Made in Italy to the world,” Schwarzer said.
The gold and orange hues of the display cases are a tribute to Rome’s light and sunny days, she added.