Kurzman Architecture teamed up with high luxury watch dealer Gene Stern in creating a new location for the new Swiss FineTiming location at 70 E. Walton Street in the Magnificent Mile shopping district. Moving off Michigan Avenue into this new emerging flagship shopping street sharing the presence of the newly renovated Gucci facade at the east end of the block at the Bloomingdales Building and the upcoming Christian Dior store at the other end of the block, this new location at the historic Romanesque Elizabeth Arden Building will house a boutique location for Audemars Piguet as a prominent guest in the Swiss FineTiming store. Audemars Piguet is approximately 150 years old and considered one of the three oldest and most significant Swiss watch high luxury concerns in the world. Only three other cities in all of the Americas have anything like this to date. This is truly a great opportunity in the high luxury arena for both the City of Chicago and Swiss FineTiming.
Shunning traditional notions of what a high-luxury brand store should be, Gene Stern worked with Randall Kurzman of Kurzman Architecture and contractor Cecil Harold to develop a fresh approach to the store establishing an interior showroom for the various brands with their own presence featuring interior showroom windows for brands to establish their presence. The space design has an open grid metal ceiling system to allow flexibility in lighting and millwork layout without having to be boxed in by traditional gypsum board soffits and walls. The milwork and the ceiling act together to form a continuous flow throughout the space from the main sales at the south facade through the middle and north end of the store which features a lounge for relaxing in while viewing high luxury watches that are brought to lounging customers or customers sitting at the new bar or lounge table. The service area of the store that includes a back office, safe room, shipping room and employee restroom, and janitor’s closet is tucked compactly into the north area with a high degree of efficiency that gives maximum use of this area.
The design involved a very intensive collaboration between Gene Stern, Randall Kurzman and contractor Cecil Harold to develop a buildable design that fits the individualistic design sensitivities of Gene that long-standing contractor Cecil has come to understand. The process shared mutual insights into coordinating the millwork with lighting, HVAC and the ceiling grid for ease of fabrication and construction where elements “float” to avoid the usual construction difficulties in fitting millwork between tight soffits and walls that we found not only unnecessary but freeing in our design and construction that at the same time added to the design sensibility as a visual statement of sensible ease and sophistication. In the end, the space was used wisely not only in space planning but in also using the small voids to wisely ease the construction.
The project was permitted through the City of Chicago’s self-certification process including structural peer review for the new floor beams necessary to carry the weight of the security safes. To compress the schedule, the project was split into two permits, one for the landlord scope and one for the Swiss FineTiming scope. The project is scheduled to open in January of 2017.