Is your approach different depending on whether you’re designing a private house, a collection of furniture, a boutique or an art gallery?
When I am working on a project, the frame and the surroundings are always a source of inspiration. I could never design an interior in New York or Tel Aviv the way I would in Paris, Zermatt, Comporta, or The Hamptons. My architectural approach -no matter how radical it may be- does not seek to denature the spirit or the function of a place. Nowadays, I get the opportunity to express myself in projects located in very different places: residential and institutional projects, hotels and commercial premises all over the world, in France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Switzerland, the US, Israel, Portugal. In my OOPS collection I stayed true to my signature: it is defined by my thoughts about volume and geometry, a sophistication without arrogance, a search for contrasts, an attention to every small detail, and a taste for authentic materials (wood, marble, stone, glass, metal, ceramics, and natural textiles). My challenge is to constantly create tension between the place, the materials, design pieces, and artworks, so that I can give the spaces a timeless signature.
La Partinoire Royale is a protected skating rink dating back to 1877 that was once used as a private space by a classical-car collector. You transformed that magnificent hall and its thousand square meters into the biggest gallery space in Belgium. That seems like a challenge.
Everything looked so tiny in that monumental hall. You tend to get lost in space. A human intervention was needed. The building, with its authentic neogothic vaults, had to be preserved. And, since it is a gallery, the artworks had to be the protagonists, not the interior. Through a selection of simple gestures, we managed to optimise the space and add some intimacy. We introduced a sculptural staircase that is the reference for the scale of the space. It is hidden in a floating white box and leads to an almost invisible passageway from which you can admire the exhibition from a bird’s-eye perspective.
You are a self-taught man who has made it to the select club of international interior architects with global projects. But your roots are Pierre Cardin.
I worked for him as a fashion designer. For eight years, I was responsible for the prêt-à-porter men’s collection. It was an interesting period. I appreciate Cardin enormously because of his mastery of the line, and his feeling for proportion and volume. That’s what fashion and interior architecture have in common. He once asked me if I wanted to start an interior-architecture office with him. I politely refused. At that moment, my own taste and style were already too evolved. And that didn’t fit his vision for the future of his company.