United Colors of Benetton
United colors of benetton
Located in the heart of Washington, DC’s historic Georgetown neighborhood, this c1850 building was once home to the Potomac Savings Bank. Over the years the structure housed various banking institutions, but in the summer of 1990, the Bank of Washington collapsed, shaking the confidence of many in the area.
Benetton Group, an Italian-based global fashion brand, began opening stores across the United States in the late 1990s. The Georgetown Benetton in 1200 Wisconsin Avenue’s historic building was one of the first to be opened in America, signaling a change to the community and bringing international fashion to the nation’s capital.
The adaptive re-use of this historic banking structure for the administrative offices and main retail center of Benetton USA posed several distinct challenges. Apart from providing the building with new HVAC and fire/life safety systems, the retail store located on the first floor and basement levels necessitated the incorporation of two 20-ton bank vaults into the design scheme.
At the basement level the vault was left intact with its main door welded into an open position, thus allowing the use of the space as a display area. The first floor vault was demolished save for the front wall and door, which were structurally reinforced to rain in place as a freestanding façade. This was used as a visual divider through which patrons could enter the children’s clothing department. A new recessed main entrance was created along Wisconsin Avenue with custom bronze security gates, referencing the history of the building while creating a modern and stylized entryway. Windows were enlarged for retail storefront displays, new structural steel for each floor and the roof were installed, a grand glass staircase designed, and the brick façade and existing wooden windows restored. Additionally, Martinez+Johnson oversaw the assembly and final position of a new showroom using custom display fixtures and lighting elements detailed for production by craftsmen in Italy.
Martinez+Johnson subsequently worked with Benetton in designing stores in South Street Seaport, New York; Palm Beach, Florida; Boston, Massachusetts; Tysons Corner, Virginia, and others up and down the East Coast.