Architecture Review: Hermes Tokyo store

Retail store


Renzo Piano

Tokyo, Japan


For my first review on architectural matters I decided to choose a modest building category, the retail store! Although there are certainly larger and more sophisticated things to write about, this seems like a good place to start.

And what a store! One look at the picture will immediately compel a closer glance. (If I were doing a photography essay this picture could easily be the feature as well) Yes, the store is only a few stories tall, it just looks massive.

A bit of background: Hermes is a luxury goods brand, maybe THE luxury goods brand, and their Tokyo flagship store was designed by Renzo Piano. Although very well known in architectural circles, if you haven’t heard of him check out his wiki page!

The best designs usually evoke visceral emotions or are so good they simply disappear into the substrate of the world. Good designs effect humans at a subconscious level, reliably, and in a way that brings joy/value/wonder in your life.

And Renzo Piano’s exterior form certainly does all that. The thoughtful integration of the exterior cladding with the entranceway as well as the streetscape is notable. Even some of the best buildings have quite mediocre entrances, and/or seem to be completely detached from the surrounding environment. (In general terms this could be intended and valuable, though for a retail store in dense downtown Tokyo, that would likely not be appropriate)

There’s also a strong technological and geometric vibe due to the highly regular and repeating forms. This plays surprisingly well with preconceived notions of Tokyo as a place of high technology and sophisticated processes. Yet the traditional style glass masonry is enough to evoke a sense of history and traditionalism, also usually associated with high end luxury. In other words, a masterfully chosen material.

One very nice touch is the rounded corners, something that is both expensive and difficult. There’s a Neo-Art Deco or streamline Futurism vibe from the subtle curvature. Exciting details like these contribute to the overall sense of wonder, that although might not be perceived at first glance, is what compels the passer by to come closer. I.e. the ideal retail store exterior.