“Seeing beyond the project” by Manuelle Gautrand

Manuelle Gautrand © Studio Gaudin Ramet
Manuelle Gautrand © Studio Gaudin Ramet

For L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui Nr 424 issue, Manuelle Gautrand—founder of Parisian office Manuelle Gautrand Architecture—wrote about her vision of generosity in architecture.

In architecture, generosity can be demonstrated in different ways. Yet considering a project does not simply mean plotting surface area on a site. Going beyond what can be quantified and measured, architecture comes with emotion, that of discovering a place which surprises, where one feels good, where beauty is present.

At a time when private spaces are growing and sometimes invite themselves into public spaces, it is important to resist, or even to reverse the balance: to ensure that our architecture includes public areas, that it opens onto the district in which it stands, that it is permissive and can sometimes be crossed. We must uphold a noble ideal of public space as it is the foundation of our humanity. Our project in Sweden [a 15,000-sq. metre refurbishment counting offices and shops due to be completed in 2020 in Stockholm] invites the inhabitants of Stockholm onto the rooftops to enjoy a wonderful public space overlooking the city, inserted between private office spaces. Architecture must also belong to the population, as it inhabits their cities.

Generosity is also found in our architecture’s capacity to provide an original vision of a project. Once again, going beyond what can be quantified, beyond the basic functions of a building, there is what cannot be measured: the generosity of collective spaces, the unexpected features of projects which are added on and which were not planned, the beauty of volumes ready to experience informal ideas and an ownership that cannot be anticipated. Architecture cannot be monofunctional and it must not dictate all the terms. It must leave us with a certain amount of freedom to discover and then live it in our own way. In our cinema project, completed in 2016 on Victor et Hélène Basch Square in Paris, we organised all the screens around a large atrium from which they are accessed. I’d go as far as saying it is the heart of the project, where all encounters are made. In a space which is majestically designed, we conceived a real alchemy between people, in a suspended location, open onto the square and the city on one side, and the screens on the other.

The more architecture is generous, the more it can hope to provide meaning and to connect people in a memorable and striking collective experience. This cannot be quantified or anticipated with measurements: it is the fruit of our creation and inspiration.

An opinion column by Manuelle Gautrand, to read in the issue n°424 of L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui.

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