Hermes luxury group shop in Paris : wrought iron horse

Hermes surprises with strength of profits in first half
A wrought iron horse, carriage and saddle (seilerie) hang above a Hermes luxury group shop in Paris.

hermes_wrought_iron_horseFrench luxury fashion group Hermes, known for its silk scarves and exclusive handbags, said strong demand helped drive up its profits by 13.9 percent in the first half. The price of shares in the company surged by nearly 3.0 percent.

For the first six months of the year, the Paris-based fashion house reported a net profit of 381.7 million euros ($506.9 million) from 335 million euros a year ago — beating analyst expectations of a profit jump of about 12 percent. The company, known in particular for its Kelly and Birkin bags, also recorded an operating profit of 584.1 million euros, up 14.3 percent on the year, as well as an operating margin of 33.1 percent. Sales, which had been published in July, shot up 11 percent to 1.76 billion euros.

“Demand for Hermes products remains strong, impelled by great creativity. The expansion of the growth relays bore fruit,” it said, but noted the “advancement of bag sales remains constrained by production capacity.” In its outlook for the future, Hermes said that based on the six-month sales figure, the “consolidated sales figure at constant rates could slightly exceed the mid-term growth target of 10 percent.”

It added that unless it were negatively affected by currency fluctuations “recurring operating margin could be close to the all-time high reached in 2012” which came to 32.1 percent. The traditional French brand said its business in the Americas demonstrated an “excellent” first half, while France and Europe “posted remarkable performances in a difficult economic environment.”

The market in Japan returned to “sound growth,” it said, and the Chinese market was showing “great vitality.” This contrasted with remarks in results from some luxury products companies expressing concern at signs of a slowing of the growth of the Chinese market. Shares in the group, which at the end of June had about 10,600 employees worldwide, rose by 2.7 percent to 255.25 euros in morning trading on the Paris stock exchange.


Wrought iron and the next design

Today’s design is future heritage
Just how creative should Chch’s new builds be?


wrought_iron_design_future”You’re all individuals!” the central character in Monty Python’s Life of Brian exhorts his band of unbidden followers. “You’re all different!” “Yes,” they reply in unison. “We are all individuals. We are all different.” “I’m not,” a lone voice pipes up – it’s a classic punchline. As for people, so for buildings: They are all individuals but some are more individual than others. Antony Gough, developer of The Terrace, has called for more exciting buildings. Yet not all buildings can – or indeed should – vie for attention as one-off artistic expressions that shout, “Look at me!”

Not all buildings can have the wow factor – just as not everyone can get away with wearing canary yellow or vibrant purple suits and paua mosaic shoes. Individuals bring a welcome burst of colour and drama. We shall certainly see colourful, new, iconic buildings. We already have Shigeru Ban’s cardboard cathedral.

Others, we hope, will also be imaginative, like the anchor projects in the Green Frame in the heart of the city: the convention centre, possibly a new concert hall, and a sports stadium. However, if every building tries to stand out from its neighbour then the whole effect will be a jumble, a mishmash of conflicting styles – buildings that fight with each other.

Many New Zealand suburbs are full of diverse architecture: a brick clad tiled-roof house with oamaru stone columns, a plasterclad flat- roofed Mediterranean-style house, and a contemporary glass-and-steel creation, side by side. Compare Europe. Some of the most attractive towns and villages are those with harmonious architecture.

Not the same, but sharing elements. Think of picture postcards of Swiss chalets covered with snow, thatched cottages in England’s Cotswolds, or the warm honey- coloured Renaissance architecture of Italy.

Christchurch, too, like other New Zealand cities, used to contain remarkably similar-looking buildings. Ornate plaster facades and wrought-iron verandas signified a wealth of character that still remained dignified and restrained – “well-mannered gentlemen”, as architect Stewart Ross calls those old Victorian and Edwardian buildings, most if not all of them now gone.

Some of the best facades can be preserved and we can incorporate elements of old buildings into new ones, like the Isaac Theatre Royal and the new Press House. One outstanding overseas example of reimagined heritage is Lord Foster’s glass dome and dramatic interior inside the preserved shell of Berlin’s Reichstag building.

New heritage-style architecture sometimes works (The Tannery in Woolston is delightful), but I see no reason to build back in the style of the past all over the city. Often, a new design contrasts sharply with the old, enhancing both, while trying to imitate the past ends up looking like a pastiche or homage. Neo-Gothic or neo-Italianate were also revivals of previous architecture.

Visiting Italian architect Caterina Steiner believes passionately that architects should design new. She spoke of Rome as an example of layered history, with one era of buildings nestled next to another. It can be a delicate balance, and highly subjective.
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If there are no reference points left – as in parts of Christchurch – then you have to start with scale and proportion, architect Thom Craig says. Structural elements can become visual highlights.

Craig’s design for an office building on the corner of Peterborough and Colombo streets looks dramatic and radiates positive energy. Could it inspire others? Let’s hope it is a harbinger of a more vibrant city.

Contemporary architecture can be every bit as exciting and imaginative as the old, with the added benefits of harnessing advances in technology. Berlin’s new architecture, some of it designed by top names like Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid, commands attention. Although buildings are different, taken as a whole they nevertheless present a visually harmonious face.

The compelling question, in my view, is not whether architecture is old or new, but whether it is good. If anything characterises contemporary Kiwi architecture today it is straight lines, flat rooflines, and lots of glass. It’s an international trend. Perhaps some buildings have too much glass – with the result that they overheat or get too cold and consume too much energy.

Passive solar design and green buildings save energy and the planet. Green architecture is the way of the future and part of a big worldwide movement. It offers great opportunity for Christchurch. Steel and glass can look too stark, while wood and stone add warmth and a touch of nature.

Balconies and patios, protected from the elements, recognise our connection with the outdoors. Above all, architecture needs a human scale and to relate with the community around it. Good design does not have to cost more, but it requires skill and imagination. What we design now will become the heritage of the future.


Faux wrought iron

Real wrought iron? No, faux

By Rick Hassler

faux_wrought_ironThe real thing would’ve weighed tons. Several of them. So you can understand why “faux” jumped atop a local architect’s vocabulary list when his firm plotted its work on an El Paso bank.

“The job in El Paso was on such a huge scale and required a completely different installation method,” she said from her Austin office. “Alvidrez Architecture contacted us and we had extensive conversations with them.”

Her firm has done commercial projects before but most of its work was residential: arches inside a home or iron-looking window grilles above a door.

For a home, one arch, let’s say, she’d need a template from the owner. But the sheer number of furnishings the bank wanted – and having the whole thing fit – ramped this order up several notches.

This bank job required multiple arches with multiple panels. And since all the walls and arches were irregular, she had to make these pieces of faux wrought iron fit together in each grille and then have each grille fit in its opening. “That’s what was amazing,” she said, to do a large arch consisting of so many panels.

Fabricates its faux wrought iron with green substrate – a resin and wood composite material – that’s perfect for exterior use. But it looks like wrought iron because the company has perfected the cutting and finishing of the material at its Austin facility.

For the big bank job, the multiple panels of grilles are mounted on real iron railings. “So there’s an iron railing, then there’s some Tableaux (the trademarked name of their product) attached at the bottom, then there’s another grill on top with the Tableaux attached to the top, and so on and so on,” Blanchard said. “And it’s kind of built on these rails to facilitate – you want added strength – but also you’ve got an arch.”

Blanchard said the ordering, manufacturing and shipping process took almost a full year. How do you get all these pieces to fit? Well, you could cut the rails as needed. It was her company’s design, but Blanchard credited FT James Construction for making it all work.

Although the cost of real wrought iron varies across the country, Blanchard said faux wrought iron costs less than half that of the real stuff. Jim McKay, the bank’s executive vice president for operations, said it cost about $200,000 for everything, from fabrication and purchase to labor and installation.

And it took two 18-wheeler flatbeds to move the enormous amount of material from Austin to El Paso.

Now that it’s up, maintenance costs are lower because the faux iron won’t need to be repainted, nor are there rust stains on the sides of the building.

The grille work adorning the bank’s lower-level parking garage is real iron, which Faux Iron provided as well. It’s for security; the higher-up faux iron grilles are just decorative.

“Everybody seems to like it a lot,” said Les Parker, United Bank’s president and CEO, of the grille work. “Customers have asked where they can get it, so we give them the name of the vendor. We’ve been real pleased with it. It’s a bit unusual but it certainly fits in with what we wanted.”

“Time will tell how it holds up,” Rick Miller added. “I’ve had other local architects ask me ‘Can I go look at your iron?’ I guess they do.”

“We were thrilled to get this bank job – scared, but thrilled,” Blanchard added. “It took a lot of thinking and engineering to come up with the installation method, and how it was gonna get done.” And that’s for real.


Wrought iron art for the Chelsea River Gallery

Ann Arbor artist Wendell Heers opens private residential sculpture park for one day event

wrought_iron_chelsea_river_galleryA very special public art opportunity is being offered to the Ann Arbor community by the nationally recognized, long time Ann Arbor citizen, educator, artist and community treasure, Wendel Heers.

Originally from a family of nine in a rural community in Minnesota, Heers was recruited by the University of Michigan in the early 1960s to set up a metals and jewelry program.

A pioneer in developing art education in his native Minnesota, he was the sole art educator in his district in the 1950s. When he left Minnesota to come to Ann Arbor, there were 10 art teachers working in his school district. Heers studied art at the University of Minnesota and became a member of the Minnesota sculpture group and exhibited at the Minneapolis Museum of Art.

Heers is a Professor Emeritus at the Penny Stamps School of Art & Design and served as interim dean during his prolific and well-respected tenure as an honored, well loved member of the faculty.

Many of his students are successful and respected artists and academics themselves and many of their children can also boast that they have been educated and mentored by Heers.

Heers has experienced great critical and commercial success as well. He has completed public art commissions in Michigan, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and France, including large scale stone meditation gardens and commemorative stone and rock sculpture installations.

His work and commissions can be seen in the Providence Park Hospital in Novi and the Cardiovascular Center at the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor and at the Mary Egan Memorial Garden at Deacon-Waltham Hospital in Massachusetts.

He is currently completing a major commission “Periodic Table” for the Quaker School, Westtown in West Chester Pennsylvania, which will be installed in the science center. A new major, large scale rock series “Walking Boulders” will be installed and ready for viewing on site at the September 7th event.

Heers’ residence on Liberty Street is home to many of his outdoor works which are installed on his property and gardens. The scale, design, placement and materials of these major outdoor sculptures rival the works seen and experienced in the best public sculpture parks nationally.

The Chelsea River Gallery will be hosting this one day event with Heers and his wife, Nancy, as they invite us to walk the grounds with them and marvel at the presence, grace and strength of these contemporary studies in stone, copper, wrought iron and antique farm implements and materials.


Materials : Wrought Iron

Wrought Iron – Properties, Applications

wrought_iron_indital_usa_websiteWrought iron is an iron alloy with very low carbon content with respect to cast iron. It is soft, ductile, magnetic, and has high elasticity and tensile strength. It can be heated and reheated and worked into various shapes.

Although wrought iron exhibits properties that are not found in other forms of ferrous metal, it lacks the carbon content necessary for hardening through heat treatment. Wrought iron may be welded in the same manner as mild steel, but the presence of oxides or inclusions will provide defective results.

The following are the list of applications of wrought iron:

  • Decorative items such as railings, outdoor stairs, fences and gates
  • Nuts and bolts
  • Handrails


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