As Parisian interior architect and product designer, you premiered your work Marble Shades at the Milan furniture fair in April 2017. What is the story behind this marble object in dégradé colours?
Fellow architects and artists told me that the natural-stone company, Van Den Weghe, was open to innovative projects. After our meeting with CEO Tanguy Van Quickenborne and Workshop Manager Alain Van Betsbrugge, fellow architect Marc Lechelier and I came up with the idea of trying out colour gradations, or dégradé, on marble. A couple of days later the people in the workshop were already trying out samples. It was a technical breakthrough that could only be presented to the world in the shape of an iconic object, which was to be the Marble Shades: a side table and stool. Making furniture in an immobile and indestructible material like marble, now there’s something exciting.
What exactly is innovative about this item of furniture?
Colour gradients used to be possible on wood and textiles, and now you can also have them on natural stone. A dream come true for a designer/architect like me. The extraordinary thing is that the colour does not lie on top of the material as an extra layer but really penetrates into the rock, allowing the veins to remain visible. Thanks to this patented ‘waterproof’ procedure, the objects can also be used outdoors. The colour effect can be applied to different types of stone -from travertine and ceppo to marble- and in any colour. All objects are cut with a CNC machine and then hand-painted by the artisans in the Van Den Weghe workshop.
How important is innovation in your field? And how do you implement that in your work?
As an interior architect, I consider both research and design important. I feel like an alchemist pushing the limits of traditional materials and techniques. Natural materials I work using contemporary techniques and treatments from another field. Ceramics I try to deform or scratch. Marble I want to make less elitist or historically laden, for example, by colouring it. And right now I am working on a rug that is partly burned.
What is the common thread running through your work? Is there a characteristic Sophie Dries touch?
I have no universal recipe for success because everything starts with the client and the genius loci: the soul of the place. We deliver custom work to people that entrust us with their homes. A flat for a filmmaker under a vaulted ceiling from the seventeenth century, a loft for a photographer in a modern apartment building, a penthouse on the Champs-Elysées, or luxury boutiques in the old part of Istanbul: every project is totally different. The important thing is to first evaluate the place well: the light, the views, the valuable architectural elements. I integrate the inhabitants’ contemporary way of life into my brute minimalism. I love clean lines and pure natural materials. But I add special strokes of colour and precious details: furniture, objects, and artwork.
You combine interior architecture with design and even scenography. Does that require a different approach every time?
I really don’t believe in partitioning. Fifty years ago the grandmasters of modernism -Le corbusier, Aalto, or Wright- used to draw absolutely everything in a home or project: from garden to the door handles and the rugs. You don’t ask an artist whether he makes videos or photos, do you? Between design and architecture lies only a difference in scale, although in both cases the starting point is the human body. Between architecture and scenography the only difference is the temporary and demountable character. I believe architects have lost touch with craftsmanship, and I try to re-establish that connection in my work. I constantly learn from my dialogues with the artisans that carry out my projects. Consulting them makes me discover possibilities and conceptual solutions that are feasible thanks to their technical skills.
In what direction do you see the field of architecture, design and interior architecture evolve?
I don’t think we want mutually exchangeable ‘trendy’ design objects that are produced by the thousands any longer. I sense an evolution happening towards durable happening towards durable objects, objects that you want to keep for a longer time so you can pass them on. Because of this, as a designer you are forced to consider the ageing process of objects. In the future we will not so much be collecting objects as we will ‘moments’, because we are, after all, more mobile than ever. Quality and authenticity are becoming increasingly important. In the field of architecture, I believe craftsmanship is going to be part of the future. I see a comeback of local materials and craftsmanship, geared towards our contemporary, digital, and cosmopolitan lives. Of course, ecological considerations have to be an integral part of the design process of new objects. That’s why I’m currently working with Van Den Weghe on a project involving marble-waste upcycling.