Mastering materials to better push design boundaries
Knowledge of materials is an essential asset for any architect. Jérôme Henné, architect and partner, confirms it. In his view, a thorough research for materiality can totally propel the design of a building and his creative work is often influenced by his existing knowledge. Furthermore, knowledge of construction and its various methods helps push the design process further, as well as better plan from the start the feasibility of the project.
“Strong knowledge of materials allows the architect to model each concept to his own way.”
His studies allowed him to experiment and carry out research on self-compacting concrete. Today, he has become so skilled with that material that he can transpose his knowledge into real projects, such as the four stores executed for Maison Simons. His work was both a physical experimentation of the material, and the application of an analogical reflection between a garment and the exterior finish of a structure. The façades of the buildings were therefore dressed in concrete, presenting textures reminiscent of fabric. And it is driven by strong knowledge of concrete that he was able to model the concept in his own way
Q&A with Jérôme Henné
Q. What was your trigger for architecture?
JH. My trigger for architecture happened in two stages. First, my father cherished this dream of becoming an architect. He shared this interest with me by pushing me to become one. Secondly, as a teenager, while traveling through Provence, I was lucky to stumble upon a man who cared of his truffle oaks. This man was André Bruyère, a great Parisian architect. His house was so well integrated into the landscape that I never noticed it. It was my first contact with organic architecture. After that meeting, I understood that architecture went beyond the construction of buildings building, and I also had the taste to design and build beautiful projects.
Q. What is your vision of good architecture?
JH. A simple architecture, sensitive and well integrated. I believe that the strength of each project stems from upstream research. However, good architecture is one that primarily meets the customer’s needs.
Q. What is your most notable project at LEMAYMICHAUD?
JH. The project of Maison Simons Anjou is notable, not because it was a big, but because it gave me designer’s self-confidence. Often done at lower cost, commercial projects must be simple and effective. To offer an exclusive image to this store, I designed the exterior surface as if it were a piece of textile. I created a unique texture composed of white dots spread evenly across the entire facade; a texture that is reminiscent of a pattern sometimes found on fabrics. We thus created a concept that brings visitors into the brand’s universe, and that allowed me to explore the particularities of a specific material.
Q. What is designer’s self-confidence?
JH. Designer’s self-confidence comes from experience. Each project requires a lot of thought and reflection, and a part of instinct. My knowledge of construction and materials, added to my culture and past experiences, give me confidence to come up with a good answer. When I’m certain that my project is complete, that it answers all my questions, that’s when I’m confident and when I can share it with the client.
Q. Which projects impress you the most?
JH. The projects of Herzog & de Meuron always impress me. They do not follow a particular style. Their projects are closely linked to their research on materials and their ability to integrate their buildings into the environment. A good example is their project for Dominus Winery in California, where they made the structure only in gabion. Another project that marked me is the Young Museum, also in California, a construction made only of perforated Corten steel. These projects each have their own signature and look well thought out.