Maison Hermès

Construction year: 2001
Address: 5-4-19 Ginza, Chuo-ku | TOKYO | Japan
Latitude/Longitude: 35.6723, 139.764

A signature building: Maison Hermès, as this new flagship store designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop is called, consolidates the label”s corporate and retail operations into a single signature building at the corner of Harumi Dori and Sony Dori in the heart of Ginza. The slender site measures just 12 meters wide by 45 meters long. Inside the 6,000-square-meter building are five levels of shopping (one below grade, four above); one floor devoted to a design atelier; two floors of offices; a mini museum on the top two levels; and a rooftop garden. The building also contains a link to the Tokyo subway.

Piano’s Design: At 12 stories, the Maison Hermès is far from a skyscraper, but it maintains a noticeable presence in Tokyo’s crowded urban fabric. Piano cleft the long, narrow rectangular site with a small courtyard leading to separate ground-floor entrances to the shop, the Hermès offices, the museum, and the subway station below. The courtyard void rises up the full 50-meter height of the building, creating a vertical shaft separating the structure into two distinctly proportioned volumes clad in glass block.

On the first three retail levels, Piano placed staircases up against the glass-block exterior. From the inside, daylight becomes an orientation device; from the outside, shoppers movement up and down the staircases animates the facades with activity and differentiates between the shopping floors and the working floors above. Except for a double-height space in the top-floor museum, there is no vertical interplay among the tight, dimpled floor plates.

Structure and Materials: In typical Renzo Piano fashion, the driving force behind the building is an elegant exploration of structure and material, however subtle. The narrow floor plates are cantilevered from a concrete spine extending the full length of the building. The concrete structure defines a 3-meter-wide slot into which Piano placed most of the building”s core functions, including stairs and elevators, bathrooms, and storage. The remaining 9-meter-wide cantilever allows for nearly column-free floors all the way to the exterior wall. The structural core-and-cantilever concept is clearly visible in the building”s Harumi Dori elevation.

The glass blocks: The sleek cladding is composed of more than 13,000 custom glass blocks measuring 45 centimeters square, which were developed by Piano and the Vetroarredo glass factory in Florence. The exterior surfaces of the blocks were mirror-varnished by hand; the interior surfaces are textured. Despite its delicate appearance, the facade meets Japan”s stringent seismic codes. The blocks are mounted in a steel grid that allows them to move up to 4 millimeters during earthquakes.

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