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Established in Paris in 2011, Moreau Kusunoki Architectes inscribed itself discreetly into the roster of young architects in France. Out of their modesty, the firm deliberately restrained itself from all forms of media attention, in the belief that architecture is best conceived in reserve and introspection, which are favourable to the emergence of poetic visions.
The firm would not have existed without Japan. Hiroko was born there and earned her degree from the Shibaura Institute of Technology in Tokyo. Nicolas Moreau, a former student of the École Nationale d’Architecture de Belleville in Paris, discovered the Japanese archipelago in 2003, almost by accident. It was in Tokyo where the two had their first professional experiences while working with internationally renowned architects: Shigeru Ban for Hiroko; SANAA and Kengo Kuma for Nicolas. They learned a number of lessons having passed through the studios of people they regarded as masters: the art of construction from Ban, programmatic and spatial investigation from SANAA, and the sensibility for materials from Kuma.
In 2008, they left Tokyo for France where Nicolas set up Kengo Kuma’s office in Europe, which was primarily occupied with the Frac project in Marseille and the City of Arts and Culture in Besançon. The French system of public commission, made through the organisation of competitions for young architects, gave them the opportunity to open their own office. The new Théâtre de Beauvaisis, in Beauvais, was the first project they were awarded. They subsequently won the competitions for the House of Cultures and Memories in Cayenne, the Polytech School of Engineering in Bourget-du-Lac, and a plaza for the new High Court of Paris designed by Renzo Piano, which is currently under construction.
Cultural duality of the architects is legible in all of the projects conceived by the practice. From Japan, the architects retained a passion for details. Their projects begin with the infinitesimal – a joint in a wall, a tile – and is carried forward to the scale of an object whose presence necessarily jostles the existing city, in accordance with an entirely Western logic of urbanism. The difference of their maternal tongues creates a sense of “in-between” for Nicolas Moreau and Hiroko Kusunoki, with the distance between them is abolished by the language of design. Rather than creating a building that springs from an abrupt idea, the two partners prefer the attestation of objects, having inherited a Japanese trait: drawings and models allow them to gradually approach the final form. Intuition and feeling, more than reason, provide the justness of the solution.
The concept of “in-between”, or known as ma in Japanese, is often found in the architecture of Moreau Kusunoki. Between two buildings, it lies the space of possibilities, where life must be developed. For the Guggenheim Helsinki, it is the interstices of circulation that brings together and separates the exhibition halls. The appropriation of ma by the users is the sign of success in a building.
Moreau Kusunoki sees the Guggenheim project as an opportunity to elevate their architectural ideas to a new level. For the firm, research into materials and the revival of traditional know-how is crucial: a chance to free architecture from the confinement imposed by regimentation and industry, an act that is both aesthetic and militant.Project Description