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A new exhibition by OMA/AMO, lR100-Rinascente: Stories of Innovation, has officially opened in Milan’s Palazzo Reale. Marking the 100th anniversary of the classic Italian department store, la Rinascente, the exhibition commemorates the company’s long creative history and experimental spirit that has served as an influential part of Italian design, culture and commerce.

On view from May 24 to September 24, 2017, the exhibition has been envisioned by the architects as a “living archive” that takes the visitor through a sequence of different visual and physical experiences modeled after the logic of a department store. Located within 12 rooms at the historic Palazzo Reale, the individual environments and scenographies will cover aspects of the company ranging from industrial design to fashion to communication, creating a retrospective look at Italy’s “first and only” department store.

In addition, OMA/AMO has envisioned eight window displays referencing the exhibition that will be located at la Rinascente’s Milan flagship store throughout the first two weeks of the event. Read more about the exhibition below.

What is a department store? What is its role in different urban contexts? How has the digital revolution affected the practice and particularities of its shopping environment? These questions are at the core of recent debates on the future of retail. They resonate among both fashion and architecture historians, and reverberate also through other disciplines – art, design, cinema, theater – to name few, mirroring larger questions of geo-political history and economy.

There is no precise answer to such questions as there is no way to reduce the notion of “department store” to a single statement. A department store is rather a diverse collection of values and identities, expressing the history of the city it belongs to. More than a place, a department store is an open and adaptable cultural canvas of its location, whether it be London, Paris, New York, Tokyo or Milan.

Today, after the first appearance in XIX Paris more than 150 years ago, at a turning point of the digital evolution, department stores are the ideal lab to reimagine our physical relationships to products, cities and our everyday context in general. La Rinascente is no exception to this tradition. Established in 1917 to replace and renew Magazzini Bocconi with the fire-proof baptism of D’Annunzio, its relentless creative history is both a symbol and evidence of the vibrant Milanese culture, one that has constantly seen the relationship with industry and commerce as an opportunity for daring experimentation and research.

Conceiving a historical exhibition on la Rinascente meant diving into the store’s history and archive: discovering its heroes, from Dudovich to Ponti, Huber to Munari; understanding its leaders, from the 50-year long direction by Borletti – Brustio to the current management; and decoding its design language and graphic identity. Unfolding the history of fashion and commerce reveals a new perspective on the history of Italy as a whole.

To mark the 100th anniversary of la Rinascente we have envisioned the exhibition as a living archive that invites the visitor to discover a sequence of wonders. The exhibition unfolds through a series of different visual and physical experiences. Rather than a coherent journey, it is a collage of identities, echoing the same logic of a department store and presenting the many aspects that made la Rinascente a crucial example in the history of European department stores.

From industrial design to fashion, art to communication, illustrious collaborations to a never fulfilled search for innovation, each of the 12 rooms at Palazzo Reale will display multiple scenographies and outline a different aspect of the production of the first and only department store of Italy. The history of la Rinascente is the story of the people who made it (management, creatives and clients), and the story of their ambition to connect art to life.

Learn more about the project here.

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