Clément, what is your story?
Born in Pau at the beginning of the 80s, I come from French and Italian origins, and I spent part of my childhood in Norway, at Stavanger. When I was small I drew a great deal, in particular, things that moved like cars and aeroplanes with elegant proportions, contemporary and sleek. I created elua® in 1991 because I needed to name the creations I drew. It is an invented name, and I wanted it to be mellow, both in the way it was written and the way it was said. Having been tempted by aeronautics, I chose to study architecture, while reminding myself that, in secondary school, after an unfortunate internship, I had decided never to be an architect! So, elua® was with me throughout my studies and became the name of the studio I established after I graduated as an architect over 10 years ago.
What do you like most about architecture as a profession?
The act of creation and the possibility of constructing an idea, in the primary sense of the term. There are few jobs I know of where every decision, and every hesitation, has a direct impact on the lasting result that can be seen and touched. It’s wonderful, but it involves a huge responsibility. As an architect, I have to do things as well as I can, because I have a moral duty towards the inhabitants of a town now and throughout the life of a building.
What kind of projects do you work on? How do you approach each new project?
With Jonathan, my colleague, we work on widely varied projects from stage design to community housing, from design to a painting workshop, via schools, houses and apartment refurbishments. We do not seek to specialise, because the elua® studio prefers to be multi-faceted. Projects bounce off each other and move in other directions, always towards more creativity. Certainly, each one is unique. We work on a little at a time, to maintain a complete overview. A project can easily develop into something else as a result of the technical, regulatory, budgetary and administrative filters it must pass through. We must remain vigilant to maintain the strong architectural axes of a building until its first occupants move in. For them, I strive to have no style. Because style in architecture is the death of creativity. Each design is, at the same time, a new departure and has a new story to tell. I often feel as if I am starting from scratch, a little like an author who finds himself staring at a blank page. Then, when I like my story enough, I share it with the owner and then the design work begins.
You have written a “Manifesto for an architecture of cinematography”. Can you tell us more about your approach?
The cinema is inspiring. Not only in its technical processes, which are exciting anyway, but in its ability to create a living space, which is endlessly built around its characters, like the emotional imprint of its imaginary inhabitants. My work for my finals was based on the development of a house that was projected by the use of different film sequences. La Collectionneuse, Le Mépris, Lost Highway, L’Anglaise et Le Duc, Novo and 2046 became the rooms in an imaginary, cinematographic and living house. The cinema is my favourite architect. I like to repeat this sentence because the cinema has shaped the studio’s approach. It is a personal and demanding trajectory, which is inspired by extremely disparate things. It could be a strobe light on Elle Fanning’s face in The Neon Demon, the staging of a nightmare in a Lynch movie, the reflection of car headlights in a city in the rain, the line of a seam on a garment, the graphics of a logo or Rone’s music! I have no particular rule apart from avoiding architectural references.
Mademoiselle is the place where we are. Tell us about the project.
Before becoming Mademoiselle in 2014, the house was tired, almost dead. Not only that, there was a bomb in the garage, which was still full from the First World War! My wife and I wanted to find a space where we could accommodate the elua® studio and our living space while remaining in the centre of Bordeaux. The project involved breathing life back into a ruin: bringing it back to life. Blowing away the partitions, opening up the walls and bringing in the light to transform an old lady into a frisky young girl. Mademoiselle thus took shape. The garage, which faces the street, became the studio. The rest is our house, reached through a first, very black, passage, the entrance corridor, which is the only part of the existing building remaining. The old outside courtyard has become a kitchen with a glass ceiling, and the living room on the first floor unfolds in front of a stack of simple geometric shapes, like the cubes we played with as children or an assembly of storage boxes in the hold of an aeroplane. The outside space, a real room outside the house in the summer, is supported by the glass roof of the kitchen and protected by a translucent planted green wall. In between, the residual spaces became the bedrooms, dressing room, storage spaces and bathroom. Mademoiselle is functional, a necessity because of her small size, but develops a design that is both strong and soft, imbued with modernity.
What inspires you?
Let’s say I’m postmodern, so I don’t really have a preference for any particular movement… The oil platforms that were being built in the port of Stavanger and their departure along the fjords towards the North Sea left me with futuristic and poetic images. Hence my passionate love of the Pompidou Centre‘s architecture! The cinema, of course, the loving, simple and complex beauty of Rohmer’s films, Alain Resnais’ creativity in the cinema, David Lynch’s dreams, childhood in general, the love we build a little more each day as a couple and the defence of certain ideas. A struggle to try to advance as much as we can in our contemporary world. Finally, a certain kind of humour, a slight misalignment that I try to inject into my ideas with architecture because after all, none of this should be taken seriously, right?
Photography & Text: Eve Campestrini – Translation: TextMaster @thesocialitefamily