Louis Vuitton Flagship Store Wows Tokyo With Custom GKD Metal Mesh Facade
The world's largest and highly celebrated Louis Vuitton Flagship Store has opened In Tokyo, a city with a "constantly fluctuating, eclectic mix of urban topography,” as it is often described in specialist literature. The store's architecture responds to Tokyo's urban architectural versatility with optical adaptability, while embodying the traditional products of the House of Louis Vuitton. With his façade construction, architect and rising star, Jun Aoki, has created a building, which fluctuates as dynamically as the surrounding cityscape. At the same time, it stands as a synonym for the Louis Vuitton brand in all its variety – as the definitive ambassador of the brand name.
Four different types of specially manufactured woven stainless steel mesh in combination with colored and mirrored glass, a special illumination system, as well as polished and gilded steel produce a pattern, which constantly changes. The five-story building on the famous Omotesando Boulevard, Tokyo's most exclusive shopping promenade, resembles a pile of cases of different sizes and structures stacked on top of each other – recreated through a dual-shelled façade of glass with strips of different kinds of woven stainless steel mesh suspended about 50 centimeters in front of it. Aoki, famous for his individualistic, playful language of form, uses his building concept to provoke levels of meaning which comment on the surrounding environment and on the Louis Vuitton brand. The physical substance of the façade seems optically seems to constantly dissolve and reconstitute itself, and thus it embodies both Louis Vuitton's brand statement and Tokyo's urban architectural changeability. The latter is evident in the life cycle of Tokyo's buildings, a mere 25 years on average, and in the extreme dynamics and abundance of stimuli characteristic of urban life here. The city is famous for its modern functional buildings without recognizable aesthetic orientations, adorned with neon lights and huge, noisy media screens in the middle of intersecting highways, railway lines and crowded streets.
Aoki had three different types of woven wire mesh manufactured for the project by specialists at GKD in different, specially designed weaves. By overlaying their complex patterns he creates a third structure, a moiré effect that is purely optical and not inherent in the material itself. In this way, he intentionally creates a constantly changing illusion enhanced by a sophisticated lighting and color concept. In the service of the brand name, on the other hand, the façade represents a homage to the first and lasting success product and trademark of Louis Vuitton: the characteristic case whose particularly light predecessors were carried to victory by increasing social mobility. The changeability of these woven cases alludes to the abundance and variety of the scintillating world of fashion, which is constantly reinventing itself anew. The surfaces of woven stainless steel meshes in different patterns and the glass behind them – partly in the colors bronze and copper – take on forms through lighting and the use of mirrored surfaces in ever-different variations. In this way, the building acquires a unique entertainment and experiential value, which reflects a philosophy committed, in spite of economic recession, to exclusive fashion and shopping as a sensual experience.
For GKD this project, with its four special products and difficult installation requirements, counts as one of the greatest challenges of recent years. The company manufactured the material types in the form of 58 separate elements in sizes ranging from just under 33 feet in length and 26 feet wide. Individual strips were as large as 600 square feet and weighed a half-ton. At the architect's request, all the panels were stretched without distance holders to stabilize them. For the woven metal mesh specialists and the company responsible for installation, this meant that the strips had to be stretched extremely tightly at the top and the bottom so that they would even be able to stand up to the wind forces of a typhoon without deforming the substructure. The strips were installed using a special installation box, in particular to make it possible to use a crane to lower and position the elements, even in the narrow canyons, a mere 3 to 3.6 feet wide, between the Flagship Store and its neighboring buildings. And for the corners of the building, GKD supplied 680 millimeter wide and up to 23-foot long panels which were bent on location in the middle at 90 degrees to make the impression of seamlessness in the building's shell perfect.
One of the most difficult tasks facing GKD was the manufacture of the fourth mesh type. This was for a 236 square feet surface, which acts as the central element of the façade at the entrance to the building and imitates the chessboard pattern of a new model series of the exclusive product brand. In tedious handwork, every second warp wire group was subsequently removed from a mesh type to create the chessboard-like checked pattern. One non-aesthetic, but highly functional special feature for building safety, never before accomplished in this way with façades made of stainless steel wire mesh, is a façade element on the front face of the store. This can be raised like a garage door, along with the mesh suspended in front of it, to allow fire fighters quick access to the building in the case of fire.
With a façade made of stainless steel wire mesh and glass, the world's largest Louis Vuitton Flagship Store reflects the image of the brand name and the city around it.