An Inspiring Conversation With Art And Architecture Maestro Peter Marino

In 1978, Peter Marino founded his firm and got his first commission from Andy Warhol which opened up the door of the artistic world of the greatest collectors, to name just a few the Agnelli family, Fred Hughes, Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé. In the 1980s, he designed Barneys’ first women’s store on 660 Madison in New York and started to work with great names in fashion like Carla Fendi, Calvin Klein, Valentino. Today-through an exceptional career- Peter Marino runs his New York based architectural firm with 160 persons working with the greatest luxury brands LVMH and Chanel, private residential customers, cultural and exclusive hospitality projects around the globe. Note that Peter Marino is the architect behind the new Cheval Blanc Paris which will open in Spring at the heart of the iconic Samaritaine. 

Peter Marino is not only recognized for his incredible design expertise, he is also internationally celebrated for his commitment to including commissioned contemporary art in his buildings, exhibitions, galleries, sculptures, opera. He knows perfectly how to emphasize collaboration between architecture and visual arts. It was such a pleasure to sit down with Peter in his incredible art gallery, a two floor office on the 36th floor of a skyscraper in midtown Manhattan. 

What could we learn from your exceptional career?

You have to be happy where you are and in what you do. I really love what I do. If you are really good at what you do usually, you are good at it for ever and I feel fortunate in my life as I have been designing since I was a kid. 

What are the highlights of your career? 

Interesting question. Probably as an architect, when you win a major international competition it is very exciting. We won a competition to build an opera house in Palm Beach, a competition in Qatar to build a huge hotel and conference center and we won a great competition in Beirut. Having saying that, among these three competitions none of them was built because of political turmoil, financial crisis, etc so I stopped participating in competitions. It is a huge disappointment. There are two kinds of architects, those who like to read and those who like to build. I love building and I am very lucky as we have thirty projects per year. 

What does a luxury store look like today compared to 20 years ago? 

Twenty, thirty years ago, the purpose of a store was just about shopping. We were shopping because we needed something specific. Today, boutiques are experiential. A luxury store is a mix of experiences of human emotions and aesthetic response where you want to spend enjoyable time. It is all about inspiration. Let’s welcome art and let’s give a message of the brand. 

You are famous around the world for your commitment to art, how do you choose the  artists you are commissioning?

I go to art galleries wherever I am in the world. New York, London, Venice, Milan, Paris. I gather ideas, I make meaningful connections and I take notes. Now it is interesting because I am known for commissioning artists. We have got a lot of portfolios of young artists, we are actually so busy!

You have a special bond with Venice. Tell me about it. 

I have been on the board of Venetian Heritage for twenty years and one year ago they made me Chairman of the Board because most of the people of the original board had died. There are three of us left. I am very happy to give my support. Venetian Heritage’s mission is to safeguard Venetian cultural legacy, as manifested in architecture, music and fine art. We published a book which  showcases the most impressive restoration projects of the last twenty years.

I love Venice, it is a great museum in itself. I love Venetian painting Bellini, Titian, Veronese. My love for Venice began when Larry Lovett called me to lead the design project for the Palazzo Sernagiotto. He taught me so much and opened so many doors for me. 

I recently collaborated with Rubelli -a leading Italian firm producing trend setting luxury fabrics for over 150 years- to design a new textile collection whose sales will partially benefit Venetian Heritage. The collection offers three silk Jacquards and the result is as Venetian as Titian. 

What do you like to do to disconnect?

I like riding my motorcycle at the end of the week to go to Southampton where I have a house. I love gardening and sports. I love skiing in winter and playing tennis in summer. 

How would you describe your work in three words? 

Modern, timeless, tactile.

What would you like  to do that you have not done yet? 

I want to build a concert  hall, an opera house. I really want to build something for music. I think I would also like to work on educational facilities. Shaping young minds could be very good for the future. I have realized two of my other goals because now we are working on a lot of housing projects. I feel so good making  towers where hundreds of people can live. We have also built a Science&Resource Laboratory for Datascope. I have loved working with the scientific community. 

You worked with Karl Lagerfeld for many years, what was it like to work with him? 

It was very intimidating to work with him. He was thinking so fast, it was unbelievable. He always had so many ideas, he was an exceptional human being and very well educated. This kind of people is very rare, I am glad I have lived in those days. I worked with Karl, St Laurent, Valentino, Armani. Those are true geniuses. There are too many computers now.

And what about working with genius Frank Gehry? 

We inaugurated Louis Vuitton’ new Maison in Seoul this fall. I loved working with him. I love him so much. He has such a great life experience and a great sense of humor. He encouraged me a lot. I was sixty years old when I first met him and I told him “it is crazy because I am  getting the best commission in my life now”. And he said, “it is just the beginning of your career now Peter”! 

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