Between disciplines
An interview with Atelier LAVIT
Paris, FR

Marco Lavit tells us how his atelier works as a multidisciplinary design space in Milan and Paris that facilitates a constant collaboration between architects, designers, artisans, craftsmen and artists. Their work relies heavily on the importance of an intimate relationship between these people. Apart from architecture and interior design projects they also work on furniture design, designing galleries, scenography and even fashion. Every project has its own story, told not in a technical way, but in a quotidian one. A project by Itinerant Office within the cultural agenda of New Generations and the support of Funder35. Interview: Gianpiero Venturini - Video: Luca Chiaudano - CPStudio

 

From Italy to France. Working and learning abroad

I always thought that the place where one goes to study is very important. I was in Italy and so I decided to study architecture in Paris in order to move abroad and out of my comfort zone. Between the ages of 18 and 25, it’s vital to be in a stimulating place like Paris, firstly for the city life and the rich culture there is here, and secondly, the education at ESA, where I studied. In the beginning, I tried to have a wide variety of experiences, so I did many different internships. When I was 19, I interned with Ricardo Blume, an architect and designer. I also did internships in China, Australia and Japan as well. When I finally had to decide where to start my career, I chose Paris because it was the city where I first studied and sort of built my first network. 

 

LAN, the relation with the clients, getting independent

One of my most important experiences at that time was my collaboration with LAN Studio. Dealing directly with Umberto, the chief architect of the studio, I was able to understand the importance of a direct relationship between the architects and the clients. That is something that I constantly try to focus on. At the same time, I understood how important it was to balance the professional life with the private one. That is how I see this profession. I wanted to be able to completely manage my private time and professional time; to be able to able to give a certain amount of time to a particular type of work or experience. It is not so easy when you work in a studio or a practice that belongs to someone else, that’s why I decided to work by myself in order to be in control of the exact time that I need to develop certain projects.

 

Atelier as a laboratory

The idea of ‘atelier’ is something that I really wanted to explore. It implies that direct connection and relationship with the clients, artisans, craftsmen and all the people in your professional network or process. At the same time, it also defines the scale of your practice and it is something that can easily be handled. However, it is also flexible as well. You can work as an architect, as a designer, or you can develop a mix of both. You can even do interior design, scenography, fashion, or collaborate with artists and photographers. The idea was to create a kind of laboratory with a flexible timetable and structure

The organisation of the atelier is quite fluid and I want it to remain that way in the future. I have one collaborator here in Paris, and two in Milan. However, I always work in a team with my artisans, most of whom are based in Italy. When it comes to architecture, I work directly with the constructor and most of the time we work on site. I spend my time initially drawing on the computer during the conceptual development, and then I like to develop the actual project on site. We meet with the client and the contractor in order to design on site. I like this model of working flexibly and would like to maintain it even if the scale of the projects gets bigger.

 

A diverse ecosystem of private clients

Most of my clients are private. Although we do unsolicited projects, we are not very much into public commissions or competitions. I try to involve different kinds of private clients. For interior design, I have private clients who are usually the final user of the finished product. Something that is not so easy is that they turn you into an analyst, because the relationship can become quite deep at certain points. For furniture design, I might have a similar type of client who is the final user of the final furniture product. When I am asked to design a gallery, I often run into special types of clients because the relationship can be quite spontaneous. Normally, gallerists are not so technical, so they never ask you to develop anything too detailed. Usually, they just want a final product that can be presented or sold. Sometimes, we run into a similar kind of client, usually brands or editors. These clients have usually done some market research and they know exactly what they want and exactly the final client, whom you don’t know, wants. It is perhaps a less spontaneous relationship. It is still interesting because you have to deal with minimising the material usage, and simplifying the process. 

 

Exploring alternative narrations

I remember this project that I was doing for a family, once. They wanted to renovate the house and build rooms for the children, including a common space to play. I went to their house to meet them with the first set of drawings of plans and sections, but the house was too crowded and busy. The mother was cooking, the father was half-listening and the three children were running around and playing. The father could barely understand what I was trying to explain. For the second meeting, we went there with a physical model instead. The model was scaled to 1:33, the same scale as playmobil. So, we all settled down and the children started playing with the little characters from playmobil. The entire family began to become involved and started to understand the quality of the project. What we need in architecture is the ability to find another way to communicate; one that is perhaps less serious, less technical, more playful and closer to everyday life.

 

MG 3915 min

IMG 5069 minPhotography Courtesy of Atelier LAVIT