Like an eagle’s nest with an enveloping wooden structure, Radioeat could easily be the haunt of a slightly tipsy spy looking for a discreet stakeout to gather vital information. At least that’s how architect Stéphane Maupin imagined it, with his culture of non-standard spaces and a formula that’s right on target. Poached by Éric Walper, the pair – having proved themselves on the Tokyo Eat project at the Palais de Tokyo – has succeeded in deconsecrating the fortress of information that is Maison de la Radio. With them, roles are reversed Radioeat has become a stage and the diners, the main protagonists in a show that takes place on the first floor. In this Seine cinematographic gallery, life is reasserting itself. Young music lovers heading for the neighbouring auditorium pass by, some with their grandparents, some with friends, while visitors’ conversations joyfully permeate the air. An accompaniment of choice for the cuisine of chef Thierry Brassard, designed to get everyone singing from the same hymn-sheet. A foodie peep-show where it’s good to see without being seen, Radioeat could have stopped there. The set-up of the dining room might have been complicated because of its location and the space itself, but Stéphane Maupin has tackled an even more complicated challenge: Le Belair. A newly opened bar in warm colours with flattering lighting, this space was basically just a tangle of fragmented rooms. Awoken from its slumbers by the architect and his team – who didn’t hesitate to furnish it totally unique chairs found at the Salone del Mobile – Le Belair completes the lifestyle transformation of the cultural space with the best view in Paris.
Radioeat, Maison de la Radio 1st floor Galerie Seine: 116 Avenue du Président Kennedy – 75016 Paris.
Éric, Stéphane, how did the idea for the project come about?
It was all pretty routine: La Maison de la Radio, like many other cultural institutions, wanted to find a home where it could be more than just a media stronghold full of information. After the building was renovated, an auditorium with over 1,450 seats was added, completing the range of facilities offered by the legendary Studio 104. It now also serves as a concert hall and show venue. It therefore only made sense for it to add a restaurant and bar.
Why did you choose to work with Stéphane Maupin?
I had already worked with Stéphane on the Palais de Tokyo project and I enjoyed working together. In addition to his talent, I like his curiosity, his flexibility, and his ability to listen to you. I also like the fact that he doesn’t take himself too seriously and that he demystifies his role as an architect. That doesn’t prevent some friction from arising, because being a good architect requires a degree of conviction and passion, and the ability to avoid losing your way when negotiating your way through the forest of technical and financial constraints. Stéphane is a government accredited architect who builds tower blocks. He has this outsize cultural approach and he thinks and acts on a global scale. In terms of building spaces that I love, often on a grand scale, he’s the go-to guy. In this respect, we complement each other.
Stéphane, where did you get your inspiration for the project?
A project starts by meeting over cocktails! What does my client want? Where is the location? What does the location want? What do I want (or rather, as Renzo Piano said, what does the Virgin Mary want?) Éric wanted an elegant space that wouldn’t detract from what was already there? The location wanted to continue its existence, with its own space, its views over the Seine and the skyscrapers opposite, its endless geometry, and its butterflies. And the Virgin Mary wanted to include the spaceship from 2001: A Space Odyssey by Kubrick. I had a vision of lycra-clad servers running effortlessly to serve customers draped over Djinn seats by Olivier Mourgue. Gastronomy has a lot in common with astronomy. It seems that the Virgin lost out. She would have no choice but to give in, given the forceful argument that the space made for itself: giant plate glass windows and a cinematic view of the outside. A daily rhythm of light, with vertical shafts of light illuminating the pillars. The alternating wooden slats cover the ceilings and the walls. Finally, the use to which the space would be put was the impetus for everything. The venue had to host two distinct groups of people without being overwhelmed: music lovers visiting the auditorium and foodies in the restaurant. Rather than a screen separating the two groups, we decided to come up with a way of preserving the perception of outdoor space for everyone. The result is a bench that creates a parallax effect that provides a degree of privacy while allowing as much light as possible to get through. A digestive peep-show, allowing you to see and not be seen.
What technical challenges did this involve?
The dining area was installed in the lobby of the auditorium. As such, the gallery could not feature any flammable materials, because it had to provide a high degree protection in the event of a fire. We put a lot of pressure on our suppliers to find and build ultra fire-resistant furniture. The work also had to be done as quietly as possible. That’s not easy in a location that is built to diffuse sound. Installing the bar was also complicated. The space was divided up into a series of smaller rooms. The entire space had a very flow ceiling with an avalanche of pipes to allow to pass through for ventilation and breathing: a nightmare! The challenge involved increasing the space, and also making it appear bigger.
Which materials did you use, and why?
The restaurant uses wood for many different reasons. Its warmth, the way it goes well with the existing décor, and its excellent characteristics in the event of a fire. Finally, the ease with which it can be used to make a one-piece bench with no joints! The bench is, therefore, no more than a vast trunk cut to size. A horizontal totem pole. It echoes the works on the ground floor by the artist, François Stahly. The bar also uses aluminium, or more precisely, Luxalon. It’s a product that was created in the 1970s that was done to death because it occupied virtually all the entrance halls of large building projects. It was the perfect choice for a revival in a building with such strong links to the past.
What type of food is on offer at the restaurant?
I have no idea how to cook, but I love to eat. This lack of ability frees me from any inhibitions or limits when it comes to cooking. The menu was created in conjunction with Thierry Bassard, our chef partner. We offer the food we want to eat, without any preconceived notions or any vague concept. Thierry has enough talent to make our desires come to life while enjoying the chance to express himself as a cook. The menu has a wide spectrum of different choices, influences, and prices. Teenagers can come and eat with their grand parents, and no one will feel like it’s a chore because there’s something for anyone: teenagers can enjoy a burger that deserves its place on the menu, while older people can enjoy a Dover sole or cod in aioli. The blend of genres is key to success and we hope that we’ll achieve it.
How would you sum up Radioeat in a few words?
It’s a brasserie where people shouldn’t be afraid of sitting down just for a coffee, spending time, meeting up, eating, drinking, and chatting. It’s a space for living!
Photography: Eve Campestrini – Text: Caroline Balvay – Translation: Textmaster @thesocialitefamily