Known for endowing contemporary luminaries such as Richard Meier with lavish budgets, Germany's leading retailer Peek & Cloppenburg KG Düsseldorf (6567 Schildergasse, Cologne; 49-1803/211-900; www.peekundcloppenburg.de) commissioned Renzo Piano to design a cathedral of cool, adding a modern touch to the postwar cityscape. The architect, whose last fashion project was the Maison Hermès in Tokyo, combined what he calls a "rather classical cubic form" with a translucent nave reminiscent of a large crystal egg, handmade using 6,800 glass panels held together by wooden beams and strips of metal. Behind diaphanous walls, shoppers can browse through an extensive selection of European clothing spread out over 155,000 square feet. —michael hannwacker
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