“To explain my ambition, I often give this image which is quite realistic. When I go to the Maldives for snorkeling, I discover an unsuspected aquatic world of incredible beauty. I am flabbergasted and when I come back, I wish everyone could see that. It’s the same thing for houses. The goal is to open our eyes to this beauty of the world. With the natural architecture, at the end of the pathway, one suddenly discovers the world framed in the most beautiful place ever imagined, even if it is a tiny space. All my architecture is made to contribute to this shock, and every day, in ordinary lands, my clients will have this shock, even if they are simple houses. Because the habitat will ultimately give openings to what is beautiful, and will hide what is ugly. Thus, even in a site that is not exceptional, we can have incredible effects. This is what happened to me in Japan and I went out of there without understanding anything.
To be genuine, one must acquire authentic things, love and surround oneself with people who are true. It is also a way of being oneself. We say what we think and we do what we say. Authenticity can therefore reveal us. Now, because of many troubles like timidity or childhood hurts, many of our fellow men have lost that authenticity which is veiled by a culture or by an education. It will reveal itself in a life or not, because for many, there is a fear of being authentic and therefore vulnerable, which is perceived as a kind of weakness. There is a great need nowadays to return to authenticity, in our relationships with others, in our ways of living and consuming. In the Maldives, I live on small traditional wooden boats (dhonis) without air conditioning but with local people of extraordinary kindness and incredible simplicity. It is the great luxury of our times to experiment this and get back to the essence of simplicity.
I love the world I live in and I am happy when I still meet sincere people. But there is such a hubbub to dissipate, like the background noise of television or radio, which prevents access to that inner silence I need, for that is where I rest, is where I am myself, with the consciousness of a billion years of elements that come from the depths of time. When I learned from Science that the beginnings of the world were nothing but dust, which has been little by little agglomerated and created the living and the living matter, then I understood that my memory would go back to this dust. I have a memory of all this, which is not oral and which you cannot tell. But when I speak to my dog for example, and in my most animal reactions, I have the impression that it goes so far. Life is a miracle and there is a memory in life!
One of the essential points of my work is to superimpose these two dimensions. That of intuition, of sensation, of opening people to sensoriality; and at the same time be rational, so that to build and conceive houses that hold, that are comfortable and protective. My mission is to restore, reminding people that they are alive, and the bottom line is to be there, knowing that we are mortal and that we are going to disappear. The relationship to the world then changes completely. It is a moment, a spark that must be welcomed fully and it would be a sin not to take everything from this world that is miraculous. Architecture can therefore change the quality of life by ensuring that the “here and now” is strongly felt by those who live it. And I wish there were more architects in the natural and authentic concepts. Unfortunately fashion is the practice, then what is profitable and could be seen like buildings, monumental projects and big hotels. Yet, even with relatively limited means, even with an old house that a little naughty, we can transform lives with some works. And this is the main theme of my teaching: changing the house makes people’s lives change completely because there is a symbiosis between the habitat and the people who live there.
My joy and my pride is be able to reveal this to my clients. In all the houses, the important thing is the pathway, the journey. I saw engineers and graduates of Ecole Polytechnique completely closed at the beginning, and they found their childlike soul in their new home. “I did not know!” Space, the dwellings where one lives every day are inexhaustible sources of beauty. I would say that I make temples of nature for people. It is this experience that I would like to share with everyone. Our outlook on everything and everyone change and every moment of life becomes sacred, in welcoming and openness to the reality of the world.
There is always a problem when you go into a house. My challenge, with the place and the means that I have, is to arrive at each time to the result, which is the emotional shock discovering the house. For I want to create a relationship to the world that people did not suspect, or were not led to receive yet. And to reach it, the goal is always different. You hardly can build a new house today, because beautiful lands with beautiful views no longer exist, as they are now all protected. So we have to demolish the houses to rebuild them. I refuse to do that. On each site, I look at everything you can keep as there is a soul, a memory of the habitat that remains and that I try to recover. And here I am happy. When I discover all that is good and that is even better than what I thought! And when I get to feel the healthy part of the house, what I will keep and what will make all the rest start again. There, I did my job !”
Interview held by Carine Mouradian on May 2, 2017 in Sanary-sur-Mer (Toulon)