Friday, October 28, 2011



Along with the commercial buildings designed by Japanese masters, such as Mikimoto Ginza by Toyo Ito and De Beer by Jun Mitsui, that we have discussed previously, we now present the work of Renzo Piano in Ginza. I recommend using the interactive map of this blog to get a better idea of the density and interaction of these projects in the urban space.

Hermes building is very close to the Sony building. In the background, notice the pink prism building for Mikimoto Ginza Toyo Ito 2 .

Renzo Piano Maison Hermès, 1998-2001

Renzo Piano, a Pritzker Prize laureate in 1998, enjoys high prestige in Japan after completing his impressive Kansai Airport. Piano's challenge this time was to create a sober and elegant building but at the same time innovative, so that would meet the demands of his wealthy patron.
The sleek tower designed in Tokyo by the Italian master for the French billionaire Jean Louis Dumas, is located in Ginza, very close to Kumiko Inui's Dior and a few meters from the multicolor Sony building, designed by Yoshinobu Ashihara in 1966, with which shares a similar height.

Sony Building, Ginza Maison Hermes and Dior are very close from each other.

The 15-story Maison Hermes Tower forms a narrow and thin 11 m block facing Harumi Dori, a main street, and extends 45 m in length to a side street. This building, of an area of ​​6.000 m2, containing shops, workshops, media areas, offices, exhibition areas and a terrace garden.

The concept of this building was, according Piano, making it a sort of "magic lamp" inspired by Japanese paper lamps, and for that purpose he coated the facade, 45 feet high, of a grid of 13,000 translucent glass blocks, 42.8 x 42.8 x of 12 cm, specially made for this occasion by the company Seves.

It is remarkable how this great glass screen can resemble to the Japanese paper screens. In both cases, during the day shades and hues can be seen through them, and at night the interior light is dispersed gently through the blurred surfaces, although in the case of glass, the multiple reflections of neon neighbors must be added.

Photos courtesy of Tanakawho and Purple Cloud

The main entrance faces Harumi Dori, where the skin of glass blocks is removed to show a transparent glass entrance.
Towards the lower street, on the contrary, the glass-block facade reaches the floor, and at a pedestrian level this web of translucent blocks square is dotted with clear glass blocks, showing some of the Hermes products , in an almost casual but elegant way.

Towards this side, the great skin is segmented into two parts. Precisely in this rupture is located a sculptural movable metallic element that enhances this secondary entrance.

Photo courtesy of Purple Cloud

The glass screen looks like a skin, slightly separated from the building by a metal structure that protrudes from the concrete slabs on each floor. Inside the skin there is also a metal frame that holds the glass blocks and gives them flexibility in case of earthquakes, behaving like a skeleton with moving joints that allows a controlled displacement and deformation of the wall, preventing the collapse of the blocks glass. The blocks have been specially designed to hide the metal gasket inside.
An interesting detail can be observed in the corner, since special curved blocks were created to give continuity to the skin effect.

It can be seen here the structural system behind the glass screen.

The skin also has an acoustic effect, providing internal insulation from the frenetic street noise outside the building.

In coming posts i will discuss further examples of the idea of glass curtain wall such as the National Art Center Kisho Kurokawa, and the concept of translucent skin in a fashion store, explored also by SANAA (Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa Kazujo)'s Dior Omotesando. Furthermore, is possible to compare the relationship between glass structure in Renzo Piano's Maison Hermes and Herzog and De Meuron´s Prada , which we will also publish soon.


Renzo Piano and Rena Dumas at Maison Hermes. Photo courtesy of Roger Lab


  1. My name is Tatianna and I am an architectural studies student at Philadelphia University. Our class is doing a case study project on the building referenced above and have been unable to find documentation of the mechanical systems and the building (floor plans, sections, on your website are pixilated and difficult to analyze). Would you be able to help us with this?
    Thank you,

    1. Hi Tatianna. I am an Architecture Student from Carleton University and we are having the same issue concerning our case study. I was wondering if you ended up finding the missing information?

  2. Dear Tatianna. I am sorry for my late reply. I am sorry I am able to help you, I only have the information I have published in this post. Good luck.