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arsept01renzo 23/10/01 11:40 am Page 78

materiality 1
In Ginza, Tokyo’s prestigious
shopping area, Hermès’ calm
authority contrasts with more
strident traditional shopping.
2
Discreet entrance. Glass blocks
in the huge wall are intended to
show imperfections of craftwork.
3
At night, the building radiates
territory around itself, a new
public space determined by
event, not geometry.

Japanese lantern
S HOP , G INZA , T OKYO , J APAN
ARCHITECT
R ENZO P IANO B UILDING
W ORKSHOP
PHOTOGRAPHS
M ICHEL D ENANCÉ /A RCHIPRESS
Tokyo’s new Hermès building is as much a cultural centre as a big shop,
and it is becoming a significant moment in the city’s play. Piano’s combination
of high technology and handcraft humanises large urban intervention.

With well-dressed bodies Renzo Piano established his


sleeping rough on the street design. With a museum, gallery
outside, two days before its and cinema, this is effectively a
doors opened to the public, themed public building rather
Hermès’ new Tokyo flagship than purely a commercial space.
store can clearly disregard By day, the curved planes of
Japan’s current economic the glass-block veil flicker and
recession, the most serious glisten and transform the chaotic
since the war. streets outside into subtle
This building’s inspiration was shades when viewed from
as much cultural as commercial, within. By night, the building
an expression of the principles becomes what Piano describes
that have underlain Hermès as ‘a magic lantern’ – a vast
products for generations – glowing crystal that establishes,
handmade craftsmanship and by the light it radiates, a
quality materials – and the way territory around itself – a new
that these characteristics are public space in a city that
consistent with the historic conceives of such things as
architecture of Japan. places of event, rather than
It is within this context that urban geometry. Suspended 2 3
arsept01renzo 23/10/01 11:40 am Page 80

from the top, the glass veil that is crucial to Piano’s vision seismic disturbances. floor. In the Hermès building, between all parts, which Piano united, appropriately, by the
expresses mass but at the same that this project be clearly the Integral to this concept is the the same principle was adopted, describes as the consistent products they display, the works
time defies gravity – its support work of artisans. revolutionary flexible design of with the columns on one side of ‘vibration of work done by hand’. of the painstaking Hermès
system being imperceptible. The large size of the blocks the building’s long, thin the frame being held in base Dumas’ spaces are elegant, craftsmen. TOM HENEGHAN
And, on this long, narrow site – was determined by Piano’s wish structural steel frame. At 50m joints that allow uplift and discretely lit arrangements of
only 12m wide – the translucent that this be perceived as a tall and with a main structural rotation simultaneously and fine wooden furniture and
wall creates interior spaces that translucent wall, not as a net of span of only 3.8m, the unusual seismic energy to be absorbed precious tactile materials,
are both intimate and infinite. opaque horizontal and vertical slenderness of the structure by viscoelastic dampers. This is generously spaced to reveal the
Architect, landscape and interiors
This was not easily done. The joints. For the same reason, he results in high overturning the first building of modern glass-block perimeter wall at all Renzo Piano Building Workshop with Rena
glass blocks are the largest ever rejected assembling the blocks moments during an earthquake times to have columns that lift times. Piano’s upper levels are Dumas Architecture Intérieure (Paris)
made – 450mm square – cast in within a steel-frame super grid and high levels of tension in the off the ground in an earthquake. handcrafted in an entirely Design team (architecture)
P Vincent, L Couton, G Ducci, P Hendier,
Italy, then hung in Tokyo in a that prevents lower blocks being columns. The engineer, Ove One particularly fascinating different tradition, with precisely S Ishida, F La Rivière, C Kuntz, C Colson,
steel frame transported from crushed by those above. Instead, Arup & Partners, found aspect of the interior spaces is detailed partition systems, Y Kyrkos
Switzerland. It is a marriage of each block is supported inspiration in the tall, thin the way that, despite the minimalistic steel-frame doors, Structure and services consultant
Ove Arup & Partners
handcraft and high-precision individually between slender wooden Buddhist pagodas of different palette of Piano and exposed light fittings and electric
Photographs
engineering, each block being steel bars that are silvered on Japan. Records show that, in the Rena Dumas – the interior raceways – all rigorously Michel Denancé, Archipress,
unique – the glass poured by each side face, rendering them past 1,400 years, only two have designer of Hermès’ shops controlled, and meticulously 16 rue de la Pierre Levée
75011 Paris
hand into single-sided moulds, all but invisible, and which allow collapsed – believed to be worldwide, including the lower fabricated and assembled. These
France
leaving different flow-lines and 4mm movement at every joint, in because the columns are five floors of the Ginza building – different, but complementary, Tel: (1) 43 38 51 81
imperfections – a differentiation both directions, to cope with discontinuous from floor to there is convincing consistency approaches to spacemaking are Fax: (1) 43 55 01 44

1 shop
2 atelier
3 office
4 exhibition
S HOP , G INZA , T OKYO , J APAN
5 plant ARCHITECT
6 storage
R ENZO P IANO B UILDING
W ORKSHOP
PHOTOGRAPHS
M ICHEL D ENANCÉ /A RCHIPRESS

sketch detail of glass-block wall (scale approx 1:15)

cross section

4,5
The glass veil gives Alice in
Wonderland quality to spaces, in
which all elements are detailed with
great precision.
6
Glass blocks are the largest ever
made, and are cast individually by
hand (standard blocks, left). Whole
glass veil is suspended, and can flex
in earthquakes.
shop level plan (scale approx 1:250) 4 6