La Boutique Cartier

The expanded Cartier boutique at Gustavia’s Carré d’Or opened on December 8, 2005. The possibility of substantially increasing the product offer for the clientele went hand in hand with increased exposure for the subtle design talent of Bruno Moinard, the architect responsible for the development and implementation of Cartier’s visual identity since the beginning of their mutually profitable collaboration in 2002.

Unmistakeably Cartier, discreetly Moinard, naturally St. Barth

Working together brought astonishingly rapid results for both partners, Cartier being able to launch the revamping of 220 boutiques around the world according to Moinard’s radiant designs, and the architect himself being rewarded for this work by the Janus Prize in 2003 and the Talent de l’Elégance Award in 2004. Moinard himself was the first to be surprised: "The speed with which the new Cartier concept was implemented is extraordinary. We elaborated it in three weeks… three years later, 80 boutiques throughout the world are already refurbished using this basic concept".

The first boutiques to be refurbished and embellished were Tokyo, Kobe and Tainan. With the flagship boutique, located at 154 Champs Elysées, the architect made an emblematic statement, projecting an essentially French culture, reconciling traditional vocabulary with modern grammar: "I wanted a black Portor marble façade, a rare variety veined with gold, which was already used on the façade of the original boutique in Rue de la Paix. The imposingly dimensioned windows use a shutter system reminiscent of Haute Couture pleats, opening in the morning and closing in the evening like a theatre stage. The white stone floor is highlighted with a brass incrustation inspired by the well-known Cartier scroll used on their jewellery boxes, a detail which discreetly recalls the legend and its symbols".

This taste for symbolism and ritual, indeed for the emblematic, is indicative of the inspiration Moinard draws from the writings of semiologist Roland Barthes and his interest in the sacred and eternity. The transcendent sparseness of Japanese esthetics has thus been as much of an influence in his work as the subtle hues of sea and sky remembered from his childhood years on the North Sea coast of Dieppe. Following his graduation from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Appliqués et des Métiers d’Art in Paris, Bruno Moinard had occasion to work with Hubert Cornier and other reknowned architects before being invited to join Andrée Putman’s and Jean-François Bodin’s team at Ecart International in 1979. There, he not only participated in the mythical Concorde supersonic jet project but elaborated designs and graphic charts for Thierry Mugler and Karl Lagerfeld in France and Yves Saint Laurent in the USA as well as a steady flow of hotel, restaurant, office, museum and exhibition designs – regularly celebrated in travel and design magazines, they are far too many to list here –, not to mention apartments and townhouses for the likes of Lagerfeld, Jean-Paul Goude or Pierre Boulez. During the ten years which preceded his decision to found his own agency in 1995, Moinard headed Ecart’s fifteen-man research and design department, a period during which he further refined his personal vision.

The time had come for him to head out on his own, the name of his firm embodying its underlying philosophy: 4BI. Enigmatic? Not really: 4 for his four children, B for Bruno and I for Isabelle, his wife. 4BI is a résumé of the Moinard touch, the solidity of a family foundation, a lasting base which evolves over the years. The agency got off to a flying start in 1995 with the refurbishment of the Galerie Lahumière at Parc Royal in Paris. It drew deserved attention and the following year, not only the Rodin Museum asked Moinard to design the exhibition of the Thyssen Collection, but the Fondation Cartier also hired him for two shows. As Moinard recalls, "This first task was the commencement of a long collaboration with Cartier in France and on a worldwide basis lasting until today and projected into the future".

The rest, as they say, is history. Enthused by Moinard’s work, the jeweller asks him to design both the new Santos Dumont watch and its launching at the Trocadero. This is followed by the design and layout of spaces dedicated to the commercialization of Cartier’s Nouvelle Vague Collection in Europe, the USA and Asia. And of course, these ties became even tighter since the decision to work together on the worldwide redesigning of the Cartier boutiques. The astounding rapidity to which we referred at the beginning of this article, is an exemplary tribute to the dynamic team of the 4BI design office. The latter is composed of no more than seven persons with diverging, yet complementary profiles, permitting efficient follow-up of all projects, regardless of the sector of activity.

The quiet elegance of Gustavia’s waterfront Cartier boutique, two-storied oxymoron of luxury and simplicity, bears witness to the success of a steady relationship.

Source: Tropical Magazine n°16, season 2006-2007

Photos: Alain Charlot

Text: Vladimir Klein

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