No. 114 . 11 September 2002 
ArchitectureWeek
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Piano's Hermès Tokyo

by Mahoko Hoffman

There is a new landmark in Ginza, one of the leading shopping and business districts of Tokyo. Designed by the Italian architecture firm, Renzo Piano Building Workshop, the building is the corporate headquarters and store of Hermès Japan, a company famous for its handmade leather bags and apparel.

After Japan's economic bubble burst in the 1990s, land became more affordable. In 1998, the French luxury empire of Jean Louis Dumas purchased the land for the 36 by 148-foot (11- by 45-meter) footprint of the 15-story structure. Totaling roughly 65,000 square feet (6000 square meters), the store finally opened its doors in June 2001.

The main part of the building houses sales and exhibition spaces, offices, workshops, theaters, and a roof garden. A small museum on the fifth floor shows historical items of the Hermès iconographic tradition.

Piano's central idea was to create a "magic lantern," with light evenly spread across its entire volume, softly illuminating the district. The architect's approach reflects a devotion to craft in keeping with the Hermès tradition of artistry in its leather goods.

Hermès is located next to the Sony building, a popular showroom designed by Ashihara Yoshinobu in 1966. The new building is a serene counterpoint to its heterogeneous and chaotic surroundings, in which each building tries to be more impressive than its neighbor.

In Tokyo it is rare for existing buildings influence the design of a new structure. But with the Hermès tower, Piano successfully contributed a European urban planning tradition by integrating the new with the old.   >>>

 

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