Manuelle Gautrand: In the profession you must be daring

22 December 2016

Manuelle Gautrand is one of few internationally recognized female architects. She has been managing Paris office since 1993. And only in the recent ten years it has produced over 80 contest projects. We met Manuelle Gautrand at Moscow “Innovations Day” and talked about competencies of modern architect and projects from Manuelle Gautrand Architecture portfolio.

Architectural office Manuelle Gautrand Architecture that was initially created in Lyon this year marks the 25th anniversary. “This profession demands being brave, hard-working and incredibly patient”, - thinks Manuelle Gautrand, one of few women in France who lead successful architectural bureau. The most known projects in her portfolio she received as a win in contests. In particular, National theatre “Comedie de Bethune” became a unique project in her career as she won the contest for its reconstruction twice, with 15 years break.

For the first time, a young bureau implemented contest project in 1994, and then in 2009 they built a second stage of utility spaces for the theatre in the neighboring corner site. They look absolutely different – wine-dark concrete facades with round shapes neighbor on more strict new section performed with black glazed brick – because architecture, in Manuelle Gautrand’s opinion, must reflect its time.


Theatre «Comedie de Bethune» © Luc Boegly

Cultural function in the modern city has a significant importance as well as preservation of symbols, cultural sites and history, says Manuelle Gautrand. “Architecture of such place as museum or theatre must be iconic and impress residents of the city, for whom it is important to accept the new building and to feel proud of their city…”. But creation of significant architecture doesn’t demand spending more money than usually, reassures architect, it only requires creative approach. Many cultural projects in France are state-funded and they have limited budget, and here it comes ability to choose materials not only from esthetical position but also from the position of their efficiency, adds Manuelle Gautrand.

New wing of the Museum of Modern Art in the suburb of Lille is another well-known cultural project of Parisian office. Museum premises covered with openwork concrete coating which permits as much sunlight as it is necessary for exhibits, and at the same time creates really important connection between inner and outer spaces, as long as park, which surrounds the museum, is also attractive as a work of landscape design with sculptures by Alexander Calder and Pablo Picasso.


Big Lille Museum of Modern Art

Manuelle Gautrand admits that she was not satisfied with her knowledge after completion of architectural school. The subject which she always admired was sculpture as it provided some fresh approach to the object. “Even now, I suppose, we apt to look for inspiration beyond field of architecture, whether in landscapes, cities, or even fashion”. Every new project in Manuelle Gautrand’s office begins from work with models. “I try to play over as many various scenarios as possible, because every solution contributes to the final result. Also I try to be more inventive with every new project, whether is refers to building functions, its context, or

“The central competency of the modern architect, from my point of view, is sensibility and creativity, as there exist no such computer which can substitute creative abilities of the person”

Problems which modern cities are facing with, also require from an architect certain awareness in various contexts: politics, economics, sociology, says Manuelle Gautrand. In particular, challenges of demography and increasing number of urban population make an architect to think about building cities not only horizontally, but also vertically, i.e. to create urban fabric of high-density, which is relevant of Moscow, for example.

 “The city needs to have more full-featured mixed environment providing space for work and for recreation, - says architect. – I don’t want my buildings, even offices, to be neutral. Architecture should excite emotions”.

This year construction of Hipark Hotel Paris la Villette was completed upon the project of Manuelle Gautrand Architecture. It became a new spotlight of 19th district in Paris.

To see more projects by Manuelle Gautrand Architecture go to the workshop website .

* “Day of Innovations in Architecture and Construction” was held in Moscow on November 15. It was organized by company “Radi Doma - Batiactu Groupe” along with French-Russian Chamber of commerce and industry.



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