Jean-François Schmit likes to engage in all scales of building and the most diverse projets, for both public and private sector clients : from workplaces, such as an aircraft maintenance hangar on an airport site, to artists’ workshop-apartments on a small Parisian plot or a school complex on the urban periphery and an entirely rehabilitated school. These buildings cross-fertilise each other until they form a continuum. The brightness of the volumes, their spaciousness and attractiveness, the concern for integration into the urban framework with deep-rooted respect for the host environment are among the constants of his architecture, contemporary without being elitist or affectedly aesthetic, an architecture that primarily relates to the user.



First, why did you choose architecture?

Originally, I wanted to enroll in the paint section of Fine Arts.

What is your first memory of architecture?

I remember the birthplace of Gustave Eiffel, next to my school. Eiffel is a personality that I admire still married engineer and dreamer. I am attracted by the architecture of iron, steel generally. I am also spotted by chance that the dimensions of the gallery of machines, built by Eiffel companies at the Universal Exhibition of 1889, consistent height and width dimensions of Cargolux!

So you come to the School of Architecture with a taste for engineering after wanted to be a painter.

At the time, the word architect was virtually banned, there was a real taboo creation.

Return to the city and postmodernism emerged and would soon become the dominant doctrine.

There were among my comrades a kind of cult of excessive lightness, a taste for stretched canvas, inflatable architectures. Few years above me, studying Jean-Robert Mazaud, the founder of the agency S'Pace, who was an ardent supporter of solar ... Our student projects revolved around figures of photovoltaic panels, plant facades or lightweight structures inspired by Frei Otto. It's fun to see that thirty years after these alternative themes have become mainstream !

Lightness to aviation, there is only one step.

Jean-Paul Saint-James, a member of the La Mache workshop, working almost full time at Hans-Walter Müller (Pope of the inflatable architecture Ed) and was always looking for little hands.

Inflatable found you at Renzo Piano.

After my graduation, I decided to become an entrepreneur, together with my friend Blanc-Garin des Arts Décoratifs. The idea was to quickly renovate premises, to painting, carpentry, a little electricity. It lasted a while, until one of our clients has proven to be the Director of Industrial Design Centre (ICC). Her husband worked for Piano and offered to help me get into the Paris branch that had fallen a little sleep since Beaubourg; Renzo tried to restart it.

How was the Agency at the time and quy as-tu fait ?

Piano finished the contest conversion plants Schlumberger Montrouge.

This is the same time as you develop your first projects?

I stayed with Piano six years as an employee but I decided to leave the agency in the fifth year, although there was a very good agreement between him and the old me.

Failure is part of the quasi normal course architects.

I quickly realized that the status of "formerly of Piano" was not necessarily an advantage in the eyes of developers who think faster than you are dear or feel you will not be able to fend for yourself

What have you learned from your passage in Piano?

The Piano experience was very important to the point that I could not detach myself from five or ten years later.

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Your working methods are put in place at that time.

In Piano, I discovered the world of industry, learned how to simplify a project, prioritize the ideas, choose where the money goes.

How is the agency organized?

It is organized on the informal fashion!

You work for the public and the private, what lessons have you learned from these two modes of control?

Private does not choose a project but a relationship of trust that has been built with you.

You say that the industry and public projects complement each other.

Shed or school, all these projects are developed in parallel with the agency and feed each other.

What characterizes your architecture?

On one project to another, there are ongoing concerns, such as the amount of natural light, flow management, or the refusal of a brutalist formalism.

But as soon as the structure becomes too large, the engineer does not he supplants the architect?

Fundamental aesthetic choices must be made with an engineer from the beginning sketches. The structure is closely related to the project and the understanding of the structure and that the project should proceed in parallel. You must have a special relationship with the office of study: this is why I love working with people like Florent Millot, engineer specialized in metal structure, probably the best in France, with whom we have developed the principles of structural steel Blagnac and PIM2.

You have recently participated in the contest for ITER, A manufacturing building field coils poloidal. Do we not, once again, but for other reasons, the limits of architectural work? The necessity and possibility of the architecture on this type of program seem infinitesimal, I want unconvincing nuclear program led by Pierre Dufau, Claude Parent and others for evidence.

I do not agree.

How do you develop the business in 30 years of practice?

The amount of studies that were done today, for a building, is incredible.

Will there any projects that you regret not having been able to achieve? Finally, you define yourself as an artist, architect or builder?

I look lost competition and, with rare exceptions - ITER, the stock of EDF nuclear parts Velaines or museum Pleumeur-Bodou - I have no regrets, as they say. Of course, when you lose a competition, the temptation is to blame the jury bias, but the reality is that often the project was not that good, in any case, not convincing enough.

There in the architecture the same enjoyment in the kitchen: imagine arranging the ingredients involved in the manufacture correcting slightly during site and deliver users the fruit of their desire and our work. Artist, architect, of course: but it is the architecture that bonus! After all these years of practice, the most important for me is to build buildings that we design and we love. So manufacturer!