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As Chanel’s original boutique on P.C. Hooftstraat – Amsterdam’s golden mile of luxury shopping – is being extensively renovated, the iconic French fashion house has temporarily relocated to rather spectacular new premises further down the road. The building, aptly called Crystal Houses, is conceptualized by acclaimed Dutch architecture practice MVRDV, and developed and constructed by an international consortium that includes Delft University of Technology, Gietermans & van Dijk Architects and Vetreria Resanese’s poesia division. The project not only represents a mean architectural feat, but also marks the arrival of the purpose-built luxury flagship store – a longtime phenomenon elsewhere – in the Dutch capital.

The Chanel boutique occupies the lower floors of the building, measuring a spacious 620 sqm. [6,674 sq.ft.], while the top floor remains residential. The structure features a striking gradient glass façade that incorporates extensive technical research and architectural innovations, and arguably the most challenging one being to find a way to cement the bricks together without the need for traditional mortar. Interestingly, advanced strength tests have proven that the many innovations have resulted in a glass façade that’s in many ways stronger than concrete, and has set a clear precedent for new projects as audacious as this one.

This innovative transparency also led to a complete overhaul of the building’s energy supply infrastructure, and the design team jumped to the occasion, using renewable sources. As such, the entire structure was designed around a ground source heat pump and pipes leading up to 170 metres underground, allowing for an optimal indoor climate throughout the year. The Chanel boutique carries the brand’s full range of ready-to-wear, shoes, accessories and watches, and although it’s scheduled to return to its revamped original premises in the course of next year, we can see the brand settle here permanently.

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