MBL architectes
Eclecticism over style
Ivry-Sur-Seine, FR

MBL architectes is an architecture practice based in Ivry-Sur-Seine, France. From their office space, they are a team of six people who manage a variety of projects in all scales, constantly preoccupied with the process of observation. While valuing eclecticism over style and research over authorship, MBL architectes are innovating and in a constant process of discovery.


Formulating a first intuition

From the very beginning of our studies, we were curious about two different sides of architecture: the most experimental practices, and the bland environment of suburbia. We spent hours meandering between roundabouts and bus stops, through the flat landscape of pavilions. From then on, observation has been the starting point of our practice. In 2014, we won the competition of the Belgium Pavilion for the Venice Biennale. The project was a survey of Belgian “interiors”. We spent almost a year with photographer Maxime Delvaux exploring the banality of local housings. Through this survey, we finally could formulate our intuition: observation is the project.


A messy accident

We designed an exhibition at Palais de Tokyo in Paris based on a simple process. As the concrete ground is not perfectly flat, we proposed to impermeabilise it and randomly pour water over, in order for puddles of all size to form through the gallery. Lights and artworks would reflect on it and visitors would have to walk around, avoiding the water. Right before the exhibition, the floor was impermeabilized and the water was poured. The puddles were designing a new landscape in the gallery. An hour before the opening, we found out that the room was totally dry. The water had passed through the floor and flooded the Thomas Hirschhorn exhibition right underneath. Happily, it was Hirschhorn and not Richter. 


Managing the unexpected

Currently, we are six people at the office, working on very different projects, big and small buildings, objects, books or exhibitions. Every week, we try to have at least one or two days that we are all together in the office. A quiet day is a day where we cook and eat together and review the projects. They are not frequent. Most of the time we work apart. Trains have become our second office over the years. Routine is something we aspire to, but projects are often about managing the unexpected.


Relocating periodically

We are currently based in Ivry-Sur-Seine, in a brutalist landmark building designed by Jean Renaudie, and part of a bigger development planned by Renée Gailhoustet in the 70’S. The office has the shape of a sharp concrete triangle floating above the boulevard, full of windows and surrounded by a lush garden-terrasse. It’s a metropolitan situation. Wild flowers cohabit with drug dealers and architectural tourists from all over the world. The layout of the office is not fixed. There are tables, books and models everywhere. We think that a studio space influences the way of working. For this reason, we relocate every 5 years. Previously, we used to work in a Hausmannian flat in central Paris, and we’re actually about to relocate at the end of this year.  


Prioritising research

As we focus on the method of observation rather than on drawing a priori, we do not experience any mismatch between our expectations and reality. We seek to define an architecture detached from all preconceived notions as to what a project should be or look like. This approach leads us from different types of projects from designing pasta to conceiving collective housings projects, from a tea pavillon to a skatepark. We find excitement in diversity and let ourselves be surprised with each and every project. 


Navigating doubt and enthusiasm

The conception of a project is quite an adventure. We used to think the project was a success if we ended up with something unexpected, something we couldn't have guessed from the beginning. Yet, we think of the project as the explicit archive of its conception, both technical and conceptual. The process of discovery, of learning by doing, has led us to unplanned conclusions. Our objective is simple. We want to keep practicing architecture as researchers, to find the right balance between doubt and enthusiasm.   

Nicolas Wagner MBL architecte portrait 2020 sebastien martinez barat

Photography Nicolas Wagner

200707 Romain Bassenne MBL architectes 02 sebastien martinez barat

Photography Romain Bassenne

Aurelien Molle Montrouge MBL architectes 2018 sebastien martinez barat

Photography Aurelien Molle Montrouge

Stepane Ruchaud Skatepark Continua MBL Architctes with David Apheceix and Constructo and Vulcano sebastien martinez barat

Photography Stepane Ruchaud

Folie WelcomingRoof MBL architectes 2017 sebastien martinez barat

Photography Courtesy of MBL architectes

Maxime Delavaux La Brigantine MBL architectes 2016 sebastien martinez barat

Photography Maxime Delvaux

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