Both in the Glasgow School of Art and in his agency, Franklin Azzi has advocated interdisciplinarity. Architects, designers, decorators, computer graphics designers, art historians and former students from the Ecole...
Everything always come in threes! After the success of its first adjoining locations in the 8th arrondissement of Paris, The Bureau has taken up residence between the Opéra and the Place de la Bourse “in the heart of a strategic, more central and more dynamic area(…) to appeal to other types of customers.” Laurent Geneslay’s eyes are shining when he talks about the 3,400 m2 of the new location that he has just unveiled. And we can easily see why. A pioneer of premium coworking spaces in France, The Bureau speaks to a vision of the French art of living and working. It’s a “Smart Way Of Working” (SWOW) which comes from the concept of the hospitality business and whose full meaning really hits you when you see these locations.
The Socialite Family’s B2B service has once again had the pleasure of supporting the locations embodying this concept – all of them conducive to creativity and innovation and where good food plays a central role – by sourcing the furniture and lighting and home accessories! Constance Gennari – founder and artistic director of The Socialite Family – therefore took real pride in composing the tailor-made decor, full of personal selections illustrated by a choice of books, wall art, photographs and the curation of rare and impressive creations such as the blown Murano glass chandelier by Osvaldo Borsani, majestically reigning over the living room. It was a long-term project that took months of non-stop work in order to bring out the very best of Franklin Azzi’s structure.Yes, it is indeed 2020’s Designer of Year who has stepped up to rehabilitate the two buildings – both of them now connected so that The Bureau has two entrances. These two entrances open into two distinct ambiances – rue Monsigny and rue du IV Septembre – and Azzi was responsible for the restructuring as well as the design of the interior fittings, which have different looks but that are united by an interior courtyard for a “Italian office” feel.
It was a real patchwork in terms of inspirations, between imagery taken from the seventies decor of American offices, and 1950s to 1960s design, as well as a colour and materials charter infused by the work of Oscar Niemeyer who has a presence here through pieces we have distressed or that are from our collection and gives a real sense of identity to the volumes. This clever blend of eras and registers, enhanced with finishing touches that were all specially chosen one by one, is a real signature of The Bureau’s hybrid spirit which we see revealed here in all its glory as we walk around this location. Spaces with “multiple characters so that you can work in different ways, such as with others or on your own, all supported by a solid service range.” So there is a restaurant, which is a common denominator for all The Bureau locations, but there is also a café, a sports centre and a whole range of personalised services for members. And what is the magic word that gives you access to the inner circle? A monthly subscription of at least three months. The ideal location for getting to know and appreciate others and – once you feel at home – to get working!
The Bureau, 25 rue du 4 Septembre & 17 rue Monsigny – 75002 Paris. Contact: www.thebureau.club/fr/contact. Phone: +33 (0)1 83 75 62 00.
Franklin, Laurent, Constance: What was your role in this third opus for The Bureau?
As we are committed to designing our projects in their entirety, from the architecture to the interior design, we were fortunate enough to be able to think of The Bureau – IV Septembre project as an overall architecture: from the refurbishment of the building to the definition of its interior spaces.
As co-founder of The Bureau, my role was first to find the right building at THE right address. After that, it’s genuine teamwork that is set in motion. Starting from a rough concrete building was very exciting.
For this third address in the heart of Paris, The Socialite Family once again took the reins on the furniture side, from the ground floor to the top floor, by mixing vintage creations from France and Italy with furniture from our collection. You will find our Achille chairs in beech wood in the restaurant for example, but also our modular Rotondo sofa in curly boucle wool everywhere from the entrance to the private lounges. I wanted to offer an Italian look, with strong pieces such as the monumental table from the 1960s, four metres long, designed by the Milanese Osvaldo Borsani for Tecno, as well as the gigantic chandelier in blown Murano glass, which can be seen in the all-wooden library lounge designed by Franklin.
Tell us about your meeting to discuss this project.
We met a few years ago. At the time, we had even visited a few buildings in Paris and Milan together, but nothing came of it. Transforming the headquarters of a bank and a former laundry into The Bureau was the challenge offered to the future designer of the year!
For the first time, The Bureau is being “exported” beyond the 16th arrondissement. Was it your location, between Place de l’Opéra and the stock exchange, the Bourse, that justified this choice or was it part of the development of your concept?
The Opera and Bourse districts are at the heart of a strategic area that I’ve been looking at from the outset. More central and more dynamic than our first two addresses on Cours Albert 1er (in the 19th arrondissement), the Rue du IV Septembre is a perfect location to satisfy other types of clients.
What were your initial wishes in terms of the layout of this vast place?
We have a great deal of respect for the buildings and their history in our concept. Our first wish was to preserve the fireplaces and mouldings, which are still very present on the upper floors. As far as the ground floor is concerned, good food and drink are the epicentre of life at The Bureau. Therefore, we had to create a private restaurant and imagine the life around it.
What were your main inspirations for shaping and bringing its 3,400 m2 to life?
For some time now, we have been witnessing the transformation of traditional office organisation models, but the answers are often still like caricatures! Our thinking is based on several years of experience, which imagines the office of tomorrow as a plural ecosystem. Places made up of spaces with multiple characters allowing people to work in different conditions, in groups or individually, all supported by a solid service offer. In terms of inspiration, I position myself as an “assembler”, drawing from different periods and registers in a non-complex way. While we have plunged back into the 1970s world of American offices, we have also drawn inspiration from the 1950s and 1960s to create a unique hybrid identity for The Bureau – IV Septembre.
How did you go about doing that?
The challenge of the refurbishment was to create a fluid connection between the two formerly separate buildings. We favoured the restitution of generous spaces, concentrating on comfort of use and the provision of light. These two entrances are also what makes the place unique! On the IV Septembre side, the glass façades give a view of the hospitality programmes and the reception areas as well as the large lounge. In this warm and timbered space, we have designed the library as a large walled sequence through which you will find micro-space, more confidential, designed as intimate and cosy lounges. On the Monsigny side, the facade is brought to life by the café, which can be seen from the street. Passing through the entrance porch, a large counter in fluted ceramic and pewter worked in the old-fashioned way naturally guides the visitor to the heart of the island where an outdoor terrace is laid out and landscaped. Directly connected, you discover the restaurant’s unconventional space! A nod to the 1970s, which is orchestrated around a large lounge with upholstered sunken seating. Playing with the light, we have designed a large mirror ceiling that reflects it kinetically, changing as the day goes by. The project unfolds as a palette of materials combining shine and matt finishes for an assumed conversation between the understatement of the workspaces and the sophistication of the social spaces.
There are already three The Bureau in Paris. What is the common denominator between them?
When we talk about The Bureau, we have to talk about a “Smart Way Of Working”. Everything is thought through, devised and executed through this prism. #SWOW is a signature that encompasses not only the concept and all the services we provide but also the values and the strong style we offer. Catering, a fundamental concept at The Bureau, is a perfect example of #SWOW as a common denominator.
Constance, how did you orchestrate the sourcing of furniture and the accessorising of the spaces?
Everything was organised as the work progressed. We worked hand in hand with Franklin’s teams to introduce a style that respects the desired atmosphere, the one inspired by the world of Oscar Niemeyer. A minimalist, elegant and sophisticated place with a fir green colour code, blending with the oak of the walls. The interesting thing here is the blending of our inspirations, our references. And the fact that for the third time in a row we find furniture from our collection at The Socialite Family mixed with vintage pieces from the 1960s is very exhilarating. Sourcing is done everywhere, all the time. In fact, I continue to refine the library every day by placing second-hand knick-knacks in it at weekends! It’s an obsession! (Laughs)
I am proud to see our collection at The Bureau. It is made in Europe, for long-lasting use and easy maintenance. Because for places that are going to be very busy, you have to think about sustainability and responsibility. - Constance Gennari
A visual harmony emerges between the three The Bureau locations. How would you describe it?
Bear in mind that The Bureau is, first and foremost, a place to work! But that it has to be visually pleasing and welcoming People who work here should feel comfortable working (of course), but also entertaining and concentrating on themselves. The strength of the place is that you want to linger everywhere here. From the restaurant to the library and the meeting rooms: every space makes you want to stay. To work there without looking as if you’re working! Quality is the watchword, from the furniture to the finish. And wherever you go, everything is punctuated by nods to this and that. Whether it’s in the photographs that line the rooms or the desk lamps from the 1980s, a pair of Olivier Mourgue black leather seats, books of architecture from faraway cities, ceramics from Vallauris, handmade trinkets or Persian rugs that are over 100 years old. I wanted to bring in personal objects so that people would feel at The Bureau as if they were at home. And so that they definitely feel at home, the courtyard, like an Italian-style office, provides a real breath of fresh air.
How did you – and The Socialite Family – make this possible?
We have a dynamic team that makes sure that everything comes together! From the production of our collection in Europe on the one hand to the search for the rare piece on the other, to give a strong soul to the place and a real “state of mind”. For me, creating a space that evokes emotion in the details is an obsession. The choice of a reading, a lithograph, a photograph, or a vase for example.
What do you think is the piece from The Socialite Family collection that works best at The Bureau Monsigny?
I would definitely say our Rotondo sofa in curly wool boucle, which you can find throughout, from the entrance to the rooms upstairs. I’m very proud to see our collection dress up the living spaces of The Bureau. It’s made in Europe, for long-lasting use – our seating, for example, is made from carefully selected foams and strong, removable fabrics – designed to be easy to care for. Because for places that are going to be very busy, you also have to think about sustainability and responsibility.
In a previous interview, Laurent, you spoke to us about a desire to go elsewhere (Madrid, Milan or Munich). Where are you at with the development of The Bureau?
Development is going well, and we are still actively looking at new projects in Paris, in the provinces and abroad! Today we are entering a new era of office work. This is an opportunity for us to continue to offer new solutions!
Photography: Valerio Gerani – Text: Caroline Balvay @thesocialitefamily