The french architect Charles Zana designs hotels, apartments, stores, and restaurants in a style that is rigorous, luxurious and bright. By the time this interview occurred, in his Parisian studio, Charles Zana was riding on the restaurant of Guy Martin in Roissy and the Hotel Kensington in London. But his great project of the moment is the exhibition “Sottsass-Scarpa, dialogue”, which he staged on May 13 at the Biennale of Venice. Today, Brabbu invites you to get to know the architect and find design inspiration.

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It was through art that you became an architect. How has this orientation been defined?
From an early age, I’ve been interested in art, also influenced by my father, who was a collector. In the 1970s, the focus was on modern art and decorative arts, not really contemporary art. I was passionate about the impressionists, the surrealists, the pre-war movements, which I discovered mainly through books by the publisher Skira or in museums. At the time, there were fewer galleries. At the same time, I was good enough in geometry and mathematics… The job that seemed to group these two skills was in architecture. I did not know that discipline until then. So I started studying architecture at the Beaux-Arts. It is therefore through art more than through construction that I have been interested in architecture.

How do you manage art installations in the interiors you design?
My job is to determine where the paintings and sculptures will be placed, how they will be able to breathe. When you look at a picture, you feel its power and where it will find its place. In the case of collaborations with art owners, I am as much os a scenographer as an interior architect. I am here to stage a family, a place, and a collection.

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What are your latest projects including art?
An installation of Anselm Kiefer has just been integrated into a project in Marrakech where the German artist filled a traditional basin with sand. I also collaborated with people like Daniel Buren, James Turrell or Jean-Michel Othoniel. When possible, I let the artists visit the site, who sees what the place is and what it could become.

Between installations, performances, micro-architectures, the role of artists, designers and actors from other fields of creation…
The great discussion of the boundary between installation, art, architecture and design is far from becoming common ground. Some artists intervene in several contexts and types of spaces: the intervention of Olafur Eliasson at the Versailles garden does not prevent him from making a restaurant in Paris and also to have his permanent installation at the Louis Vuitton Foundation. With an artist like Tino Sehgal, who only makes installations with the body, how to differentiate his work from a choreography? And take Bob Wilson: his latest choreography is like a real art installation. You would put it in a contemporary art fair, it would find its place as a work of art as it is a product. We are in an era of redefining our roles.

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Would you like to pay tribute to Sottsass in your exhibition “Sottsass-Scarpa, Dialogue”, which will take place in Venice during the Biennale?
I want to make visitors reflect about a very innovative Italy of the 60s, on those architects who invented modernity. Scarpa and Sottsass were the successive artistic directors of Olivetti and started the image of what was a “modern” brand. So I wanted to recreate the link between the two in order to provoke a new perception of their work. To do this, I will remove the typewriters, which I will replace with Sottsass vases, and I will also play with light, music, and graphics.

Your studio is located at Rue de Seine, in the heart of a gallery district. Why such a choice?
It is very pleasant to be in the middle of the galleries, to be able to visit exhibitions while leaving the office. Besides, I would like to participate by opening a gallery myself. Culture, architecture and the decorative arts are really our cement, French decorators. That’s what makes us different from other countries. This French tradition distinguishes us and I want to convey it.

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About Charles Zana
Based in Paris, Charles Zana’s architectural practice creates exceptional spaces all over the world. The interior architect considers his own style as modern classic and that shows in his works, from residential, shop and exhibition design projects. The Forerunner of the French firm best described his style as contemporary classicism. Within his recent projects were a London’s Kensington House Hotel and a Guy Martin restaurant at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport.

Source: IDEAT

See also:

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