For years, two four-story-high billboards depicting LV-monogrammed suitcases dominated the streetscape of Paris’ Champs-Elysées, camouflaging the circa 1931 landmark building that houses Louis Vuitton’s flagship store. Behind the screens a dramatic and extensive renovation ensued until last fall, when Louis Vuitton premiered its innovative and futuristic vision of retail, in which shopping is an art form.
James Turrell’s colorful “First Blush” light show and Tim White-Sobieski’s 65-foot-long abstract video presentation, “Alpha,” are among the permanent art installations that greet shoppers as they enter the store, preparing them for what American architects Peter Marino and Eric Carlson intended as an enlightening experience. The Louis Vuitton shop posed daunting challenges for Marino and Carlson. They had to enlarge cramped interior spaces to accommodate the brand’s growing array of luxury products, but they also had to adhere to rigid French preservation laws that prevented them from modifying the original Art Deco exterior. Marino based the circular, ramped interior on Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum, and it was Carlson’s idea to link each floor with abstract LV-monogrammed metal screens that cover the exterior windows and serve as indoor backdrops that unify, yet also separate, various departments. The 151-year-old luxury brand’s famed luggage collections, naturally, are a focal point, located under the nearly 2,000 glistening stainless steel rods that hang from the top of the central atrium.