Lionel, can you tell us about yourself?
I am a self-taught utopian. Given that I have no formal background, I have complete freedom to do whatever I want! Whether in terms of architecture, design, stage design, interior architecture or even sculpture?
How did you come up with the concept for your workshop?
It’s built around the light. I broke through and opened up everything possible, and then we made the place our own in a very anarchic way. I love the feeling that nothing is fixed in place. At the end of the day, it’s a bit like a yurt. We’re ready to pack up and leave tomorrow.
Could you tell us a bit about the property’s history?
It’s an old, turn-of-the-century house that used to be a bar, with another 1930s house in the middle of the garden behind it. I wanted to paint them all black to accentuate the stark, graphic look. The meeting room is under a greenhouse, which is great for the light – and the choice of materials and the energy that it gives!
Who do you work with? How do you build the team around you?
We’re a team with numbers that vary from eight to twelve people. Most of us are interior architects, architects, and designers. It also works on a mixture of gut instinct and what we love. Everyone needs to feel comfortable. I like the open dialogue and the complete lack of ego. All our staff members manage several projects as if they were their own. This means that we can work in an environment that is built on trust and allows us to take risks. That’s the point at which creativity kicks in!
Calling my ideas into question and seeking new ones - that's what really keeps me going.
What is it about the creative process that inspires you?
My inspiration comes from several sources and is extremely eclectic! But I always look for honesty in terms of behaviour and approach, quality of craftsmanship, and a sense of character and humanity. Nothing that is too perfect. I like imperfection – it’s humanising! This summer I travelled to Japan and it was amazing. I really liked their concept of time, and the way they take the time to do the smallest of things. There is a Japanese architect whom I love – his name is Terunobu Fujimori. He is well known for his extremely poetic tea houses. But I could also fall in love with constructivist Soviet architecture like the work of Constantin Melnikov, the spontaneity of Lina Bo Bardi or Jacques Giillet’s organic houses, or even Robert Bruno.
How would you define your style?
It’s difficult, but it’s eclectic, graphic, based on materials and craftsmanship. Materials that encourage my desire to be inventive. In fact, what affects me most is stored in a massive library inside my head, and when I invent I let my imagination off the leash and dip into that library – and I like the ideas bouncing off each other.
Do you have any specialities? Any materials, colours, ways of working that make you stand out?
I work instinctively. I practise lateral thinking in my creative process. I’m not afraid of contrasts or forced marriages. I seek energy.
What are your current projects and what does the pipeline look like?
We are finishing a winery project near Carcassonne, a sculptured building that’s 100 metres long and clad in raw oak bark, an organic horse stud, a concrete house on the side of a lake, and above all, my new offices. They are based in an old, 6000-square metre factory in Zavantem, where I’ll be putting together a studio with a team of around 20 creatives, craftspeople, artists and designers as well as music rehearsal studios. It will be a unique venue, where we’ll be sharing an 800-square metre space for exhibitions and presentations as well.
Photography: Valerio Geraci – Text: Caroline Balvay – Translation: TextMaster @thesocialitefamily