Here is a rather discreet agency, MurMur, which is silently winning over Paris. Before the interview we started with a few jokes, they made me feel at ease right away. Both Benoît and Lucie are very simple and straightforward.
What is the story behind your duo, where did you meet, how did you start your studio?
Benoît Huen: We were in the same architecture school, in Paris, and presented our diploma on the same day, this is how we met. After school, we each went on a rather different path. I first worked for AREP on urban and railway infrastructures in France and China and for Naud & Poux Architects on offices, housing, hospitals, schools and retirement homes.
Lucie Lepage-Depreux : I was project managing in the agency XI Design, working on rehabilitation projects in central Paris.
Who has what role in your duo? Do you each have your own speciality?
Benoît : It’s not really about having a speciality, we both like discoveries, and changing from one project to another, so basically we do everything together, and consider each project as our new challenge. We tend to like interior design projects as much as bigger scale projects, such as the office building we are working on right now.
For the bakery Liberté in Paris, for the restaurant Le Mordant, and for Frédéric Morel’s showroom in Paris, you were at the same time very respectful of the past of the building and radically contemporary. When I think of certain statement pieces such as the marble counter of Liberté, I feel that you managed to bring together two apparently contradictory notions: minimalism and refined decoration.
Benoît : Our thing is that we always ask ourselves whether we would still like the project in five years from now. It’s a way of not slavishly following contemporary trends, of aiming to reach intemporality. For instance we think we could still take responsibility for the restaurant Le Mordant in 5 or ten years, there is nothing there that could become outdated. This is really our aim. And what is left, when you peel off all that can grow old is what you can call our signature, or our style.
Maybe you could sum up a definition of your style in one sentence.
Benoît : Some kind of a manieristic approach to architecture, with no or very few processed materials. We like to keep it rough.
Between small projects and big ones, do you have a preference ? Do you use some projects as the research lab for other bigger ones? What is the relation between your projects?
Benoît : Basically none: we start each project from scratch, apart from Liberté, which had several branches, and one signature style. We did a lot of rehabilitation projects, and a lot of projects for people that were changing their career and starting a new activity. So I guess our work is often about re-« conversion » of people and places. I would say that our style or our signature is: to have very designed façades and very respectful left-as-they-are interiors, if this makes sense… For some, we had the chance to have a lot of freedom. For Liberté, we were actually totally free (liberté means freedom in French 😀).
Lucie : Well no, remember he was a bit afraid?
The client was afraid?
Lucie : Until the marble arrived the client did not understand where we were heading. He could see we were very confident, he trusted us, but he could not see for himself what was our point. When the marble arrived, there was a big: Ah! That’s why!
What is your news today?
Benoît : Today we are working a several amazing projects, but unfortunately…
Lucie : They are confidential, sorry. But they are very interesting and very different from one another.
Benoît : That’s our thing : we are always afraid of doing the same thing again and again. We really don’t want to get bored or repetitive. We need to feel excited and challenged each time.
Lucie : We have been lucky enough to have had freedom and diversity.
What is your ambition? What do you dream of right now? How do you perceive your studio in 10 years time?
Benoît : We don’t want to become too big.
Lucie : We really don’t like huge studios that cannot take responsibility for all their projects.
Benoît : Since we love details, we want to be able to supervise everything. So we want to keep control and still worry about the design of things.
Lucie : We love design.
Would developing a line of furniture for editors be something that could interest you?
Both: Yes totally!
Benoît : That would be our megalomaniac dream.
How do you find your clients?
Benoît : We don’t like answering calls for fastidious projects. Most of our projects came from quite organic and natural networking, one project often leads to another. Until now, our portfolio grew along with our group of friends quite easily.