Jil Sander's Hamburg Showroom opened in July 1996 in a landmark villa on the banks of Lake Alster. The 18,000 sq. ft. villa, built in the mid-nineteenth century, sustained considerable damage during the Second World War and the subsequent occupation by the German Finance Ministry. The conversion from Ministry to Showroom after years of neglect required extensive renovation and restoration of the building's interior, exterior, and three-acre park in which the building is situated.
While the quality of the original villa and the remaining details suggested a historic restoration of the Belle Etage, the extensive program of showrooms and offices, and associated technical considerations demanded a radical restructuring of the space and function of the villa. Gabellini Sheppard Associates' approach to the project was to maintain the balance between old and new, with precise interventions where required. Meticulous restoration of the villa's plaster reliefs and woodwork is complemented by a bold but unobtrusive reconfiguring of the interior, which is filled with furnishings and fixtures designed by Gabellini Sheppard Associates. The entire space is unified by a new floor of Spanish Arria limestone.
The stitching together of old and new is most apparent in the main foyer, where a pre-existing grand stair to the first floor is balanced by a new stair to the lower level. This former basement was excavated in order to create a buffet, dining area, and meeting room. Invisible light sources dissolve surfaces and corners in contrast to the more ornamental treatment of the floors above. A terrace, formed as part of the excavation, connects the dining area to the surrounding park.