Franklin Azzi, Creator of Spaces

Franklin Azzi, Creator of Spaces

Considering the global and the collective in architecture: this is the credo of Franklin Azzi, elected “Designer of the Year” by Maison & Objet in 2020 and 2021. A distinguished – and rare – award for this architect possessing so many talents, from interior design to urban planning, with whom we’ve had the opportunity to collaborate at The Socialite Family. Specifically, he designed the latest 2.0 coworking space, The Bureau, with interiors he refurbished and furniture sourced by our pro service. Also involved in other creative sectors – with the recent inauguration of his own Endowment Fund for Contemporary Art – this laureate never ceases to amaze us with his multi-disciplinary approach. A hyperactivity and productivity which transforms the Parisian and foreign cartography, leaving us to wonder what the lair of an international figure from a profession that’s in constant evolution would look like. A manifesto, perhaps, which would consist of bringing together in a space forms and materials that are never “mistaken” because they’re durable, timeless and efficient in their design. Like the geometric Wassily steel tube armchair designed by Marcel Breuer, a true “symbol of industry, mass production, standardisation and functionalism” or “the Jean Prouvé table and chairs with iron-clad strength”. Signed pieces that our host mixes indiscriminately with equally rational objects – a bundle of special army mats, for example. A “zero degree design” find that time cannot alter, confirming the Glasgow School of Art graduate’s desire to give life to a scenography that views furniture for what it is. These are constants that honour the work of the man without artifice. Interview.

Franklin Azzi, Creator of Spaces
Franklin Azzi, Creator of Spaces
Franklin Azzi, Creator of Spaces

Franklin, could you introduce yourself, please?

Franklin
I am an architect. I set up my own architectural practice in 2006 and am developing a cross-disciplinary approach based on the interweaving of viewpoints and disciplines. By constantly bringing architecture, interior architecture, design and contemporary art into dialogue with each other, I am developing an approach to design and construction that is open to all scales and kinds of spaces. At the same time, in 2016, I initiated the creation of the Nouvelle AOM collective, which brings together three Parisian agencies, Franklin Azzi Architecture, Chartier Dalix Architectes and Hardel Le Bihan Architectes, and with which we won the international competition for the renovation of the Tour Montparnasse. More recently, in 2019, I established the Franklin Azzi Endowment Fund, which promotes contemporary art. Once or twice a year, we organise group or solo exhibitions, and we also support artists in producing their work.
How did you get to where you are today?
Frnaklin
Immediately after high school – where we can’t say I was very good – I had a kind of revelation: I enrolled in the first year at the École Spéciale d’Architecture. At the time, they were organising meetings with prominent external figures like Steven Holl, Frédérique Borel and Rudy Ricciotti. Great practitioners, not teachers by training, who passed on their passion for the profession. After that, I gained some experience abroad. Notably at the Glasgow School of Art, established by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Then I came back to France to get my degree before leaving to do my military service in India for the Ministry of Finance in New Delhi and Ankara. That doesn’t make me feel any younger! (Laughs) Back in Paris, I worked with Architecture Studio, where I stayed for eight or nine years. They taught me the business and about project methodology before entrusting me with managing a company dedicated to micro-architecture. Two years later, I decided to set up my own architecture and interior design agency, the one you know today!
Tell us about your education. What sort of environment did you grow up in – and how did that affect the way your tastes developed?
Franklin
I studied at the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland. It is a school that, somewhat like the Bauhaus, integrates all disciplines: industrial design, styling, pottery, sculpture, cabinet making, and so on. It was there that I found out about working with artists and craftspeople. I moved from one workshop to another and realised that there were other skills, other ways of approaching a project. It taught me to see things differently. It was also there that I developed a taste for materials, soft furnishings and fabrics.
Franklin Azzi, Creator of Spaces
Franklin Azzi, Creator of Spaces Franklin Azzi, Creator of Spaces

I studied at the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland. It is a school that, somewhat like the Bauhaus, integrates all disciplines: industrial design, styling, pottery, sculpture, cabinet making, and so on.

Franklin Azzi, Creator of Spaces
Franklin Azzi, Creator of Spaces
Which designers and artists have had a strong influence on you and your work?
Franklin
In no particular order and in all disciplines! The great classics and inexhaustible sources of inspiration: Donald Judd, Alvar Aalto, Oscar Niemeyer, Claude Parent, Mies Van der Rohe, Arne Jacobsen. Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the leading exponent of the Glasgow School, inspires me with his open-mindedness, his curiosity about art and craft – his appreciation of genuine craftsmanship. Among contemporary artists, I enjoy the work of both established artists like Tatiana Trouvé and Romain Bernini and young talents such as Olivia Bloch Lainé and the None FutbolClub collective, whom I discovered during our most recent collective exhibitions at the agency. And let’s not forget Philip Roth, Federico Fellini, The Horde, etc. I warned you, my sources of inspiration are many, varied and inexhaustible! (Laughs) Like some of them, I attach a lot of importance to functionality and durability. I clearly come from this global and collective approach.
Tell us about when you first saw the apartment. How did you design it?
Franklin
I’d like to change it! I’m surrounded by my favourite objects; there are iconic objects as well as furniture found in the street. My first USM, for example! It was covered in vinyl, and I restored it to its original condition. I have a particular affection for the Wassily armchair in steel tube designed by Marcel Breuer, a symbol of industry, mass production, standardisation and functionalism. The Panthella table lamp by Verner Panton for its pure lines and diffused light, the Jean Prouvé table and chairs for their unfailing resilience and the AA armchair by Airborne, designed by former students of Le Corbusier and inspired by a folding chair used by British army officers in the 19th century. It combines form and function so subtly. I also particularly like Mathieu Mategot’s sideboard in perforated steel sheet and its chromed tubular structure on castors. It dates from the 1960s. And, of course, some military items, including the bale of special mattresses. It has nothing to do with war. It is rather an attraction to the zero degree of design. These objects are functional, unadorned, and of high quality because they are designed to be mass-produced, and to withstand the test of time and the most challenging conditions.
Franklin Azzi, Creator of Spaces
Franklin Azzi, Creator of Spaces

I'm surrounded by my favourite objects; there are iconic objects as well as furniture found in the street. My first USM, for example! It was covered in vinyl, and I restored it to its original condition.

Franklin Azzi, Creator of Spaces
In a previous interview, you told us that you differentiate between the personal and professional worlds – which are more refined and focused on durability and sustainability – when it comes to decoration. How does this apply to you at home?
Franklin
I collect works of art. I’m particularly fond of the works of Geneviève Claisse, a geometric abstractionist, at the moment. She focused on restraint in her creations, which were always inevitably geometric, both in form and in the choice of colours. Sebastian Stumpf’s photographs show unexpected events that take place in public spaces. The still camera draws attention to architectural details. Here, Stumpf is seen between two buildings in a gap, a ‘sukima’ in Japanese, typical of Japan’s earthquake-resistant architecture. I like the idea of this back and forth between our real-life experiences of cities and the possibilities offered by the interstices.
What does the apartment say about you?
Franklin
Next time I’ll take you to my country house! It reflects me much better than my apartment in Paris. There, I take the time to do things. I’m renovating it at the moment, demolishing, repairing, building etc. I like to be able to change the way I live and to pay attention to detail. I’m a control freak… but I’m working on it! (Laughs) What my living spaces have in common is that they are more colourful than our agency in the 2nd arrondissement in Paris, where I have chosen, purely professionally, to use black furniture. A bit like artists in their studios, I like simplicity in the place where I work. I don’t like colours in my office.
How would you describe The Socialite Family?
 
Franklin

The Socialite Family is a window into the interiors and private lives of the people who make up today’s world.

Where will we see you in the coming months?

Franklin

On a variety of really exciting projects! In New York, where we worked alongside the fashion designer, Serge Ruffieux on the flagship store for the Chinese brand, EP Yaying. In Japan where we’re exhibiting furniture in the Maison & Objet touring exhibition and next in China – once the latest Covid wave is over – where several of our creations will be on show at the French Embassy in Peking. In Paris, on the Tour d’Argent project that we’re working on for André Terrail who owns this Michelin-starred restaurant. You’ll also find me at the ‘CONSERVER, ADAPTER, TRANSMETTRE’ exhibition at the Pavillon de l’Arsenal, where our Temple renovation is presented, a project in partnership with Ardian, led by Stéphanie Bensimon. And probably in one of our premises for a future art and crafts exhibition organised by our Fellowship fund.

Franklin Azzi, Creator of Spaces
Franklin Azzi, Creator of Spaces
Franklin Azzi, Creator of Spaces

I collect works of art. I'm particularly fond of the works of Geneviève Claisse, a geometric abstractionist, at the moment. She focused on restraint in her creations, which were always inevitably geometric (...)

Franklin Azzi, Creator of Spaces
Franklin Azzi, Creator of Spaces
Franklin Azzi, Creator of Spaces

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