A 19th century Haussmann building has been renovated as Etam’s Lingerie’s flagship Paris store by removing internal barriers and adding a glass floor. The team from MVRDV demonstrated their respect for the historic building and commitment to preservation and combined it with an unexpected and unique shopping experience. Like the lingerie on display, the store is revealing yet intimate at the same time.
The project occupies a corner site on Boulevard Haussmann, directly across from the Galeries Lafayette department store in one of the prime shopping locations in Paris, near the Opera Garnier. MVRDV’s design takes advantage of the building’s wedge-shaped floor plan by stripping back the exterior as much as possible, highlighting the building’s clean classical appearance, allowing plenty of light to enter the store from both sides and creating large windows for display.
Glass floor display This stripped-down approach continues to the interior where a part of the entresol floor above and most of the interior walls were removed to reveal the original stone structure in an elegantly simple way. The most striking alteration is a glass floor at ground level, which allows light to penetrate to the basement level and makes a visit to Etam’s store a captivating experience as visitors see products and people on the level above or below. This floor is treated with a special film that makes it transparent when viewed at an angle, but clouded when viewed directly from above or below, providing privacy and preventing vertigo for those standing on the glass floor. This floor creates a direct reference to the lingerie on display – at once revealing and yet respectfully modest.
Cobbled elegance The basement is accessed by a grand central staircase. These stairs, as well as the flooring of the basement level and the back of the ground level, are finished with a light-coloured wood laid on its end, inspired by the “pavé en bois debout” cobbled streets that were widely used in Paris in the 19th century. The pattern created by this flooring was also developed into the non-slip pattern applied to the glass floor, unifying the two flooring types into a single whole.
Five tonne door One element stands out as a prime example of the project’s simultaneous commitment to preservation and renewal. During the demolition of the building’s interiors, a section of an original wall within the building was uncovered. Although there was no question that this historical element deserved preservation, it also presented a significant obstacle within MVRDV’s open floor plan concept.
Taking inspiration from the work of artist Gordon Matta-Clark, the design team worked with stone experts to transform the wall section into a five-tonne pivoting “doorway”, preserving the openness of the store’s floor plan, but always with the option for the historical wall to be simply rotated back into place.
The preservation and modernisation of existing buildings serves as a key sustainability strategy for MVRDV. Renovating buildings avoids the embodied carbon incurred in building a new structure. The approach is also culturally sustainable: preserving heritage ensures cultural continuity, while being open to carefully considered yet bold modifications allows a building to evolve with the times.
Key Facts • Brand: Interior • Practice: MVRDV • Project Category: Glass in architecture Retail chain stores, department stores and supermarkets Commercial Retail • Location: France Paris