Galloping brick arches
Hermès Factory in Normandy by Lina Ghotmeh
View on the main entrance Hermès-Workshops in Louviers, Lina Ghotmeh — Architecture, photo: Iwan Baan, © Hermès, 2023
In the leather and saddlery workshop operated by the Hermès luxury brand, architecture and contents convey the equal values of sustainability and high artisanship. More than half of the 12 400 Hermès employees in France are artisans; of these, more than half work with leather. This involves not only belts and handbags, but also the products that gave the luxury brand its start: riding saddles.
View of the workshops from the entrance, Lina Ghotmeh — Architecture, photo: Iwan Baan, © Hermès, 2023
An assemblage of halls and courtyards
The most recent of the country’s ten Hermès leather workshops stands in Louviers, a city in Normandy. It is the brainchild of Lebanese-French architect Lina Ghotmeh. Brick walls with large archways surround the low building, which is situated in an industrial wasteland. According to the architect, the irregular archway motif was inspired by the galloping gait of a horse. The bricks used for the structure number more than 500 000 and come from the surrounding region. Depending on the time of day and season, their colour varies between red and violet.
Upon entering the Hermès factory, visitors first come into a forecourt surrounded by brick facades, then into the central distribution space known as the “village square”, where a sort of mobile by artist Emmanuel Saulnier hangs above their heads. Seven larger-than-life steel needles fixed to leather belts refer to the art of saddlery, which is practiced in Louviers, the only Hermès saddle workshop apart from the flagship location in Paris.
The so-called village square with an art installation by Emmanuel Saulnier, © Tadzio
An energy-plus building in brick array
Inside as well, crosswalls in a 9-m grid with large archways structure the workshop building and keep the spaces to a human scale. A low, wood-beamed ceiling rests on these walls. Energy-efficient building operations and low carbon emissions were important planning objectives in this project.
View on the workshops, Lina Ghotmeh — Architecture, photo: Iwan Baan, © Hermès, 2023
The client asserts that the Maroquinerie de Louviers is the first factory building ever to achieve the highest standard of E4C2 in the French certification system known as E+C-. E4 means that the building generates more energy than it consumes. The decisive factors here are good lighting thanks to the many skylights, cross-ventilation throughout the workshops and the supply of renewable energy sources. More than 2300 m² of photovoltaic modules have been mounted on the roof; they drive a geothermal pump with 13 probes, each of which extends 150 m deep.
Architecture: Lina Ghotmeh — Architecture
Client: Hermès International
Location: Louviers (FR)
Structural engineering: EVP
Landscape architecture: Erik Dhont
Building services engineering: Franck Boutté - Consultants
Area: 6200 m²