Manuelle Gautrand, for "a humanist and ecological approach"
- by Stéphanie Obadia
- 2023-01-03 09:23:49
Architect born in Marseille and based in a Parisian agency for 25 years, Manuelle Gautrand shines today in France, as well as internationally. She gives us her vision of architecture.
You are at the head of the Manuelle Gautrand Architecture agency. In 2017, you were noticed for the creation of Citroën's global showcase, the C42, on the Champs-Elysées, and you received the European architecture prize. A turning point?
This prize, awarded by The European Center for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies and The Chicago Athenaeum, is one of the highest architectural prizes in Europe. It celebrates the career of a European architect. It was a big surprise for me, since it is a prize for which one does not apply. I take great pride in it, especially since I was the first French architect and first woman to receive this award . For me, this is the culmination of a humanist and ecological approach that corresponds to European values.
You have delivered nearly 30 buildings in France and abroad. Very often noticed, published and very often awarded. What is the philosophy of your agency?
We have always worked on very varied projects in their programming and location. For major public and private clients, in France and abroad: cultural facilities, offices, housing, commercial facilities, hotels, etc. The DNA of the agency is the enrichment of projects. This requires a very conceptual and analytical approach. We approach projects through different entry points: the environment, the site and of course the expectations and desires of the client. It is then that we dig into the program in order to go further, to innovate, more in harmony with societal and environmental changes. It is not a question of simply landing on a site but of establishing a whole interactive narrative with the client in order to design a unique project.
It is also very enriching since it opens up the fields of possibilities. All you have to do is establish a dialogue, imagine together the evolution of the project to collect bonus ideas. The important thing is to bring the project into something other than a literal translation, which is often not very innovative and not very creative.
With each new project, a new writing?
Any architectural work must above all be at the service of the city and its citizens and each of our projects is designed with this in mind, with an innovative and sensitive approach. Far from an international and standardized architecture, we always seek to draw inspiration from the city and its site to imagine a project that is eminently contextual and sensitive, functional and economical, but also bearer of beauty and poetry. With each new project, a new blank page opens.
You also advocate an articulation between private and public space…
This is indeed one of our fundamentals. Indeed, we advocate mixed venues that are open to the city . The articulation must be as fine as possible between public and private spaces. This walk from the street to the extended common areas recurs in all our projects. A little experience that does not leave us indifferent. And it works very well: two and a half years ago we delivered Edisson Lite as part of Réinventer Paris I. Its particularity: shared and programmed spaces. The 76 m2 of the ground floor of the building are common areas that the condominium rents and from which it can derive income. Commercial rents make it possible to finance the charges and the surplus invested in a financing fund for future work on the building.
And the environmental?
We want each of ourprojects actively participates in our collective effort against global warming and the growing pollution of our cities. Here again, far from any standardization and any simplistic duplication of labels, we try to find the most relevant environmental solution for each project: a unique solution for each project , drawing heavily on the local but also cultural qualities of the site, its history, geography and topography.
Around this environmental ambition, we are developing an approach that is as scientific as it is sensitive to the materials that we wish to use, low-carbon, biosourced and local materials as much as possible.
The situation is now quite tense with soaring prices. Is the expression always so free?
It is essential, whatever the context and despite a tense situation, to work on the meaning of architecture, its symbolism. To keep writing that is not generic. It does, however, require great brevity.
What is, for you, a successful architecture?
I would say: a sensitive and generous architecture that brings value . It must also tell a story, take you on a journey. We passionately like to generate this desire for architecture with project owners, and arouse in them this desire to travel in our projects. We are storytellers, and this part of our job is perhaps one of the most poetic.
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