PARIS – L’Oréal has created a vast multisensorial space, called Le Visionnaire – Espace François Dalle, where its employees from around the world can delve into the group’s heritage and culture, and innovate, within the company’s historic headquarters at 14 Rue Royale in Paris.
On Thursday evening, the French beauty giant officially inaugurated the renovated building, which artfully mixes 18th-century and ultra-modern elements.
Speeches there were given by Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, granddaughter of L’Oréal’s founder, whose family is the group’s largest individual shareholder; Jean-Paul Agon, chairman of L’Oréal; Nicolas Hieronimus, chief executive officer of L’Oréal, and Bruno Le Maire, France’s minister of economy and finance.
Christine Lagarde, president of the European Central Bank, was among the attendees at Le Visionnaire’s opening, along with L’Oréal personnel and journalists.
The 45,210-square-foot building originally by architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel has a façade and roof that are listed. as historical monuments today.
The location has served as the longstanding home to L’Oréal’s hairdressing activity, which was the company’s first metier.
Architect Alain Moatti steered the building’s redesign. On entering, there is an atrium with a soaring glass-and-metal roof. It is part of an ovoid structure with a reflective lacquer shell added to the building’s inner-courtyard side.
“Le Visionnaire is the idea bridge between the past and the future of L’Oréal,” Agon said in a statement. “This place reaffirms our values, our absolute beliefs in innovation and our attachment to transmission.”
The executive said “the L’Oréal adventure will continue to be written where it began.”
“Entirely designed in a collaborative fashion and equipped with the best of tech and digital, it offers both an immersion in the soul of our house, as well as a deep exploration of the world to allow our employees to invent together the beauty of the future,” said Hieronimus.
“Employees at L’Oréal are really attached to this building for many different reasons,” said Cristina Palme, project lead for Le Visionnaire. “Visually, we have a picture of Mr. Schueller standing in the office which has been on the third floor since 1938.”
She was referring to Eugène Schueller, L’Oréal’s founder, whose wood-paneled office has been restored to its former glory.
“It’s the building of L’Oréal’s heritage,” continued Palme. “We are really attached to our roots.”
Le Visionnaire is L’Oréal’s only building in central Paris. Until 2017, the 14 Rue Royale structure served as home to the group’s Professional Products Division. Many ideas were then volleyed around as to what to do with the building after that. An ah-ha moment came next.
“We said: ‘Let’s do something that is really dedicated to transmission [of savoir-faire and history] – not a commercial place,’” said Palme, explaining that the humanistic purpose interested the cultural affairs and historic monuments governing bodies in France.
Le Visionnaire is inspired by the vision of Dalle, who served as L’Oréal’s CEO between 1957 and 1984, and built the company into the international powerhouse it is today.
This hybrid building – part workshop, part bivouac – is meant for free exchanges and the birth of disruptive ideas. It is a first for L’Oréal and billed as the only of its kind in the beauty industry.
Le Visionnaire has 21 rooms on five floors made to highlight L’Oréal’s roots, history, culture, inspiration and experimentation. Palme summed up the building’s vocation as “transmission, innovation, creation.”
A marketing approach was taken for the building’s conception.
“We imagined scenarios of usage with employees,” said Palme. “We created a sort of ‘persona.’” That’s the ideal person at work in the building.
Furniture here is not premium or ostentatious, but chosen for various reasons. One was to identify each space. Palme said that when adults work surrounded by the same things all the time, their brains will produce similar ideas.
“It’s your cognitive system that works in this way,” she explained. ”So we wanted to create spaces that are able to distract the lazy working of the brain.”
On each floor and in each room, brains are meant to be distracted by the various furniture and layouts.
“In every room we have a very unusual piece of furniture,” said Palme. “Because your brain is attracted to this piece of furniture, this distraction helps it work in a different way. This can foster creativity, brainstorming, etcetera. We kept all these cognitive systems very strongly in mind when we developed all the spaces.”
In three “consultation rooms,” Le Visionnaire, La Route and Les Marques, L’Oréal collaborated with IRCAM, the Institute for Research and Coordination in Acoustics/Music, on sound there, “because the impact of a specific sound on your brain – especially when you are creating a mood board, a brainstorm tool – certain sounds have an impact,” said Palme.
So forget lounge music. Le Visionnaire is a pioneering project on all levels. It has a prospective tool, created with artificial intelligence, by Local Project, which is accessible in the center of the building, referred to as the “egg.” This can help employees create mood boards and have inspirational images for their everyday work.
It is the first time L’Oréal has opted to create a physical place with assets and content – there are more than 2,500 digitized documents and 335 iconic products on display – to describe the group’s actions and history. In one area, there’s a connected cabinet of curiosities.
Le Visionnaire is equipped with a content collection system allowing visitors to choose information relevant to themselves in an active, modern, digital way.
“You have to mix up, once again, the cognitive interactions,” said Palme. “You have to touch, listen, read and see. It’s a sort of synesthesia. We use all the senses, because when you are active in discovering a message, you are much more able to register this content. And this content stays in your brain longer.”
The name of each room in Le Visionnaire – such as “l’audace calculé,” or “calculated audacity” – is linked to Dalle’s pioneering heritage. To learn about this, people can flash the QR code found under every room’s name.
“They are names connected to an attitude, a way of working at L’Oréal,” said Palme. “We try to draw these great ideas from the past into modernity and the current dynamic you can get from them.”
“’La brèche’ [or “the breach”] is about breaking the rules,” she continued. “François Dalle was talking about this in 1960. This is idea is so incredibly dynamic and modern.”
On Le Visionnaire’s top floor is the reworked hairdressing academy, with state-of-the-art chairs for hair washing that use the L’Oréal Professional Water Saver showerhead created with Gjosa.
This is no traditional coworking space.
“It’s a place to create, invent, figure out and imagine the L’Oréal of the future,” said Palme.