is an architect based in Paris, France.
Cast away .
This project, initiated 3 years ago, could be considered as an antagonist allegory to the famous movie Cast away, starring everyone’s beloved Tom Hanks, lost on an island : it shows one’s relationship between isolation and the concept of wholeness, or how to create your own symbolical home out in the wild, despite being separated from the rest of the world. Conversely, here the project is about finding a way for a family to have its own universal and symbolical wild landscape inside their home, surrounded by the city but deeply separated from its looming pressure. It was somehow prophetical, considering the pandemic we are living right now and our eventual never ending lockdown conditions.
Isolating and protecting
Located on the outskirts of Paris, at the very foot of La Défense, an otherworldly accumulation of oversized high risers, the house stood almost lost on the edge of a tiny little street that ends abruptly abutting the massive fundaments of a cluster of towers. This brutal situation, in between high density modernist utopia and the modestly grandiloquent 19th century architecture, emphasizes the feeling of being a tiny little Défense-less being. The house seemed like an oyster without a shell, lost in the ocean. Luckily it was articulated around a little exotically planted patio garden and we decided at the first visit that this house had to be protected from this outer predatory world, turning its back to the street and only looking at itself, its garden and its own qualities, yet to be found.
As many 19th century urban houses, over the years the house had been quite parasitized by the consecutive owners' interventions. Even though this accumulation of random decisions can sometimes create magic, here it didn't. Space was suffocating and textures were shouting at each other in a belligerent manner. We had to find a way to create ‘one’ out of the many ideas that lived in this space. We had to remove a lot.
Truth of nature
Connecting the elements, even if this sometimes means destroying or removing, also means creating elements. We had to create a whole new world with its own specificities, with its own language and atmosphere. Isolated from the outside world ; within itself.
Even though as architects life can sometimes seem like a big theatre play in which we build decors, for this project we were looking for a truth, a certain evidence. If everything is real in what we do, nothing is at the same time. Maybe a definition of truth could be in the things that happen without our intervention, without a decision or just without us. And there is one thing that truly happens without us : Nature. Everything had to be done to transfer a universal natural evidence into a designed inner world, or a place where design is not designed anymore, and just happens. A natural process. An architectural garden of Eden. An island.
What a moment of divine beauty, when you make way for this other truth where your usual trivial facilities become natural elements. When your grey green tiled floor becomes shallow water. When your long concrete sofa becomes a sand beach where the water tickles your feet. When a massive oak tree table becomes the big tree around which you gather as a family. When a matte black kitchen becomes the charcoal you found in the burnt forest. When a towering library becomes the cliff you climb everyday, and the books in it become the stepping stones that help you get higher. When an oversized curtain becomes a waterfall, or even just the wind. When a white concrete curved bridge becomes a stratus, a low cloud, passing quietly above your head. When a gigantic bay window becomes nothing but the sky, with its sunsets and sunrises. When a wooden staircase emerging from the shallow water becomes the beginning of a path to go somewhere else, up the mountain, above the clouds. Then you see it. It is your island, it is the island of everything. You can now close your book, put it back on the shelf and go for a walk in your garden, the real one.
An architect said once, about his villa Alem in Portugal, that God is just a man in his own garden.
I would say that I am a man, but God is the garden.
Paris, France - 2020 - with Gil Percal - Photography: Simone Bossi
Called to operate this historical apartment transformation in the very center of Paris, I quickly considered this project as a topic of atmosphere and a reflection about Time. I felt it on visiting the location at first sight: we are somewhere – here – but not only in the now. We are yesterday, we are a year ago, we are centuries ago. Chasing an out of time atmosphere will be the God of this intervention, the Goal Of every Decision, the circle of thinking, the one to look for, the one to look up to : here God's atmosphere will be Time. I created three guidelines as the foundation of this atmosphere: Technique, Ambience, Space. This triangle of vectors would then answer respectively to what I consider as the starting landscape of any architectural project: Pragmatic context, Historical context, Theoretical context. The three makes the one. The one is the question and its answer.
The Gate of Time
Paris, France - 2018 - Photography: Simone Bossi
Paris, France - 2019 - Photography: Simone Bossi
Located on the top floor of an industrial building from the early 20th century, at the very top of Montmartre hill in Paris, this apartment had a sprawling view over the city skyline with a powerful natural light. We found on site a glossy white ceramic tile floor, which, interacting with the sun, became the main vector of this project: like skating on ice, like pyramids in the white sand, every vertical intervention was considered as raising a monument from scratch, standing alone in this ocean of reflection. Wood, marble, steel and iconic self-standing accessories were used to rise contrasted materiality from this immaculate floor, creating an interior forest of tiny monuments, in dialogue with the spellbinding view outside. Living here is curated.
Located just outside of Paris, at the foot of the Vincennes forest, we came across this apartment as prim and proper as it would have been on day 1. Completely preserved from the concept of time, every little detail was in its original state of construction from when it was built and conceived in the late 60s. Our first idea was to create a museum, a replica of Tati movie interiors. Until this one sunny afternoon during a visit on site: our mood was definitely somewhere in the 60s, but our spirit was on the Italian Riviera. Or Rome. But with Jep Gambardella. We got to thinking about round golden mirrors for Barrocco, an abundance of swaying curtains for changing decors, changing dresses, about different scenari for the photographer to shoot his actress. Pink, dark green, Klein blue, luxurious 'Point de Hongrie" floors and alabaster Chareau lamps… Everything here is made for Play. Fare un casino. It's Cine Città in Paris.