Called to operate this historical apartment transformation in the very center of Paris, I quickly considered this project as a topic of atmosphere and a reflection about Time. I felt it on visiting the location at first sight: we are somewhere – here – but not only in the now. We are yesterday, we are a year ago, we are centuries ago. Chasing an out of time atmosphere will be the God of this intervention, the Goal Of every Decision, the circle of thinking, the one to look for, the one to look up to : here God's atmosphere will be Time. I created three guidelines as the foundation of this atmosphere: Technique, Ambience, Space. This triangle of archangels would then answer respectively to what I consider as the starting landscape of any architectural project: Pragmatic context, Historical context, Theoretical context. The three makes the one. The one is the question and its answer.
Technique / Pragmatic context: The apartment was old and dusty; intellectually attractive, poetically seductive, but out of topic in this environment, in an area where a square meter is sold for a year of an average worker's salary. We changed everything, we showed nothing. The paradox of being able to choose not to show everything suggests that you have more; a sort of Lutheran hypocritical modesty, of wealthy decency. The floor heats you, the walls heat you, light is dimmable and music is everywhere. Technique is everywhere but nowhere.
Ambience / Historical context: Located in one of the reputed "Hotel Particuliers" for which the Marais is so well known for, the L-shaped apartment had a strong singularity for having its two wings spread out over different parts of the building - wings built with almost two centuries of time difference. One part, with a higher ceiling, was built at the end of the 17th century. The spaces from this time had strong characteristics based on power, wealth and social distinction: Thick walls, simple shapes, wide volumes, huge windows and massive stone walls are remains of the middle age, pure in a certain way, noble, monarchic. The other wing of the apartment was built at the beginning of the 19th century, just before the Haussmann period and was consequently showing another relationship with the living space: more decorated, precious and with a lighter structure; bourgeois. We had here two figures to start with - born beautiful, expanded over time - and then loaded, decorated, inhabited, almost corrupted over the years by its occupation. As some psychologists recommend, it's salutary to unload your affective back pack sometimes; starting again on a fresh and light basis, focused solely on the essence of who you are. I aimed here for this goal of peeling layers and revealing what should be: coming back to nothing, to the first things, to an initial idea.
Space / Theoretical context: In architecture I consider that answers must connect to the virtual space inside a human being. In a time where there is less and less space, I consider that space is more. There is a wider world inside of every one of us, created by the power of our imagination. I created a limitless space with wood frame windows showing that even inside you are always outside of the next room, where you have to go through the boundaries to turn on the light or shut the curtain, making the spaces interdependent; a space blurred by mirrors and where the only noticeable door is unnoticeable, mirrored on all of its faces, rotating for ever and articulating this living space. Space moves when it moves and this door has become the icon of this place. An icon that you'll think of, later, outside, and you'll be living this apartment even when you are not home. In a way it is a mental palace.
Keeping only what was the essence of this place, searching for the initial idea and following my intuition, this is what I left: a Janus with two faces, with its duality revealed by a mirror of time, a rotating door folding space and time and creating a wrap where you can travel through Time, a gate.
This is my parents' new home. Thus it's a sacred space.
The only step to climb up through the gate is a stone from the childhood house of my mother. I am not a believer but I guess there is also a reflection about Time, the Here and Now, in there.