The new life of a store in Milan designed by Tadao Ando

Working on the shop designed by the Japanese master in the early 2010s in Milan, Tito Canella has subtly and respectfully adapted a container of great architectural value.

This article was originally published on Domus 1088, March 2024.

The showroom and boutique on Via Santo Spirito is one of several sales spaces designed in the early 2010s by Tadao Ando for Duvetica. Since the end of 2023, it can be visited in a renewed guise, following a restyling by Tito Canella in collaboration with Guardini Ciuffreda Studio. The client is the new tenant, the fledgling menswear brand Oratio, and the transformation involved subtly adapting a container of great architectural value to the maison’s brand identity.

As Canella recounts: “The challenge was to balance respect for the work of the Japanese master with the definition of a warmer and cosier atmosphere, far from the ‘icy’ details and finishes that alluded to Duvetica’s winter down jackets.” Canella’s words testify to his sensitive approach, but also to the remarkable versatility of Ando’s minimalism, a recognisable style almost universally appreciated by clients, critics and the general public. 

The challenge was to balance respect for the work of the Japanese master with the definition of a warmer and cosier atmosphere.
Photo Studio Gabriele Basilico

The organisation of the spaces on three levels has remained substantially unchanged. The first floor is used as offices, while the spaces open to the public are distributed on the ground floor, which houses the boutique, and in the basement, a multipurpose area that can host meetings and small exhibitions. The slab dividing them recedes from the line of the street. It therefore makes the ground level appear as a raised podium while revealing to passers-by the existence of its underground double. At the entrance, visitors encounter a three-dimensional crossroads, from which they can climb a gently sloping ramp or descend a steeper staircase. 

In the retail space, a number of devices designed by Ando stand out, which have also been preserved: a long hanging rail that is recessed and suspended within a concrete frame, and two glazed rooms, one facing the street and one inside. Apparently hermetic, these can be dressed from the floor below by lowering their floor-platforms. Canella has also left unchanged the surfaces most typical of Ando’s idiom: the resin floor and especially the concrete wall panels. Meanwhile, he has worked on the integrated and self-standing displays, all in walnut wood and with a simple design, “so as not to compete with the existing”.

Canella continues: “The work with two specialists such as architect[1]fashion designer Tiziano Guardini and his partner Luigi Ciuffreda was fundamental for the design of these and other ad hoc elements, which were so specific to the precise function of this space.” Also new are the two large fitting rooms in the basement, exclusive spaces designed for making made-to-measure garments. Passing through their chrome[1]plated steel doors leads to another universe, softened by the carpeted floor, warmed by the saturated tones of the walls and equipped with a minibar. Their glass facade is transparent but can be opaque if necessary to ensure maximum privacy for their guests.

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