Regarded for her poetic approaches to architecture, French architect Manuelle Gautrand was recently named the 2017 laureate of the European Prize for Architecture. Awarded jointly by The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies and The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design, the prestigious prize distinguishes an architect “committed to pushing forward the principles of European humanism and the art of architecture”. It also encourages the support of new, progressive ideas for the built environment. Gautrand was presented with the prize during a gala dinner at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece on September 8.
Born in Marseille in 1961, Gautrand obtained her graduate diploma in architecture from The École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Montpellier in 1985. After working in different studio for six years, she founded her office in 1991 in Lyons with her partner Marc Blaising, and then in Paris. Since 1994, she has lived and worked in Paris. More than 300 architects haved worked at Gautrand's Paris studio since 1991.
From residential homes to office buildings to cultural facilities, Gautrand's projects “celebrate boldness and non-comformity in a world torn by extreme modernity and a reactionary return to the past”, the European Centre described in a press statement.
“In 2007, Manuelle Gautrand’s ‘C42’ Citroen Flagship Showroom on the Champs-Elysées Avenue in Paris gained immediate public attention and widespread acclaim globally. In 2011, she converted the Gaîté-Lyrique Theatre into a center for modern music and digital arts.”
One of the firm’s most iconic works is the Cité des Affaires (2011) in Saint-Etienne — which houses several governmental bodies, and includes recreational facilities, a restaurant, café, and a tourism bureau for the metropolitan area.
“The building is developed along a built ‘continuum’ on the site that interacts with adjacent streets. The linear construction rears up and unfolds and also hugs the ground line to form a low accessible building, while opening to a spacious courtyard with bold overhangs. The cut-out portion of the building draws pedestrians into the project. These high ceilings magnify the entranceways. Depending on pedestrian movements, the yellow undersides are either a floating canopy or an interior vertical wall that provide internal pedestrian movements rich with a luminous presence. The yellow facades brighten up pavements and glazed elevations, casting golden washes over them like sunlight. The fenestration, set into facades colored in yellow, grey, silver, and gold, act as a bold cohesive decorative element.”
Another one of the firm's notable projects is the Gaumont-Alésia, a Parisian cinema housed in a structure that is over 80 years old, which was revamped in 2016 as a new cultural hub for the surrounding city. Gautrand's design showcases the cinema’s influence on both the interior and exterior. The building’s main entrance faces a intersection on Paris’ General Leclarc Boulevard and has an additional facade facing Alésia street.
“Manuelle Gautrand has worked diligently to ‘re-enchant the city’ by reinventing, renewing, and innovating a pluralistic design path full of unexpected answers, risk-taking, surprises, and architectonic expectations that are bold, refreshing, and equally provocative,” stated Christian Narkiewicz-Laine, the President/CEO of The Chicago Athenaeum. “Ms. Gautrand rightly compares her work to the poetry of the French Nobel Prize for Literature Laureate, Saint John Perse: ‘the luxury of being unaccustomed’.”
“This firm understands that architecture and its surroundings are intimately intertwined and know that the choice of materials and the craft of building are powerful tools for creating lasting and meaningful spaces in the city and in the city’s diverse environments,” Narkiewicz-Laine continued.
An exhibition of Manuelle Gautrand Architecture's work, which opened at Athens' Contemporary Space last week, will travel in Europe through 2018.
Some previous laureates include Bjarke Ingels (Denmark), Graft Architects (Germany), Alessandro Mendini (Italy), Santiago Calatrava (Spain/Switzerland), and LAVA Laboratory for Visionary Architecture (Germany).
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