Rene Gonzalez Architect’s first boutique for Alchemist, a high-end fashion store in Miami, was situated on the fifth floor of the ultra-modern parking garage designed by Herzog & de Meuron. The shop’s retail display, with mirrors that respond to patrons’ movements, won an AZ Award in 2012. (Read more about the AZ Awards 2015 – including this Friday’s gala.) The firm’s second store, a concept shop on the ground level of the same Lincoln Road garage, was just as dazzling if more low-key in leitmotif.
Now, Gonzalez has created an Alchemist jewellery store – and it’s not in the parking garage. It’s in a strikingly modern glass plaza on a palm tree-filled courtyard in the Miami Design District. The storefront distinguishes itself from its fellow blue-chip neighbours with a mirror cladding in a rose-gold finish. Reflecting the courtyard scene in a flattering light, the entrance is outlined in a two-foot-wide frame of transparent glass that allows passersby to peer into the store.
The lush greenery of those palm fronds are reinterpreted inside. The long and narrow shop is defined by the green Costa Esmeralda Granite slabs that cover its two facing walls. The expanse feels like a museum, with precious objects on display in glass and onyx vitrines suspended from the wall and recessed into it. In the built-in display cases, the jewels rest on white stone chunks that look excavated from the same deep Earth as the granite slabs.
The granite finish starts off smooth, with the deeper green and more dramatically marbled granite giving way to roughly textured, lighter bands as shoppers make their way to the back. “The design of the store reflects, through the selection of materials and the interior’s tactile surfaces, the sense of discovery and wonder that one would experience in nature in an expedition to mine rare gems and stones,” says Gonzalez. Meanwhile, the stretch ceiling – made of white latex – has the effect of a massive skylight, and balances the serious stone with a gesture of airy lightness.