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Yurts So Good at Hermès

May 2011

By Stephanie Wells, Paris

Paris’s architects are a wily bunch: they are masters of reinvention. When areas need a little nip-tuck or augmentation, industrial relics are repurposed in truly innovative ways. It is a must in the tightly contained capital city.

The new Hermès store in St. Germain perfectly captures the repurposing state of mind. Hermès Rive Gauche is housed inside the unused swimming pool of the Hotel Lutetia – an official historical landmark. Built in 1935, the pool was operational until 1960 when it became a showroom for fashion designer Dorothée Bis. In 2005, the architect Denis Montel was commissioned by Hermès to revamp the grand dame of the Left Bank.

The haute couture label found a hippie-chic home within the Art Déco sports facility. Three giant “yurts” (or huts made of ash wood) balance on original mosaic tiles. Teardrop shapes and flowing balustrades play with the natural light to create an organic dappling effect over the display of luxury goods. The tactile, zen-like, even playful milieu inspires a series of sun salutations or a spontaneous meditation.

Other examples of repurposed industrial sites include the verdant Parc Clichy-Batignolles (17th arrondissement) and the Promenade Plantée near the Bastille; formerly a rusty train depot and decommissioned railway, respectively.

Playing within restrictions is part of the Parisian experience. We’re packed into tiny apartments in the city’s center since living outside the péripherique is “not done”. Appreciating Paris’ splendor is a part of daily life. Living here for a few years, I’ve seen several sites reborn. These little reincarnations make me feel, in a small way, as a witness to Paris’s evolution.

Design & Luxury

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