A Woman with Purpose: Marie de France

A Woman with Purpose: Marie de France

At Akris, we love to celebrate Women with Purpose who create space for a better living. As a partner architect and head of Sou Fujimoto`s office in Paris, Marie de France, is challenging the interconnection of architecture and nature in her work.

Already as a teenager, she was fascinated by nature`s inherent beauty and shocked by the way humans build within it. One of the reasons she became an architect and wanted to work with Japanese architect, Sou Fujimoto, was to explore the contradictions between interior and exterior, both constructed and natural, and aimed to achieve architecture in harmony with nature.

Marie is the perfect example of an Akris woman who pushes the boundaries for innovation, makes her mark in a male dominated world, and lives a life with purpose.

In 2015, you worked alongside Sou Fujimoto with the Albert Kriemler and the house of Akris. What was this experience like, to see architecture transformed into actual clothes?

It was an astonishing experience. Yet moreover it was a wonderful surprise; I could not imagine that it would lead to such a richness of creation. I was truly impressed when Albert welcomed us to his studio in Paris, to show us the first materials he had gathered, and when he finally presented us the collection. A unique collaboration, that I will never forget.

Do you think there is a common ground between architecture and fashion?

For me architecture, like fashion, envelops the body, only within a different scale. In both cases there is a question of material, light and shadow, air, color, sensation; there is the movement of the body in space, the question of hiding and showing the body as well as the inner core of a person. It is fascinating how actually close these two fields are.

One of your latest project is the St.Gallen Learning Center, which will be opened next year. Can you tell us about the idea behind your concept?

The concept is called “Open Grid - Choices of Tomorrow”, and it circles around the question how we will learn in the future. The “Open Grid” is a space that can be rearranged, to allow the room sizes, shapes and layouts to shift to accommodate the changing needs of the students and teachers. Its space is a sketch book per sei.

What is an advice you live by in life?

Being positive and curious, always; look forward but not too far ahead.

As International Women’s Day is approaching can you tell us which female architects you most admire?

I really admire Charlotte Perriand and Sejima-san. I find them both strong and daring in different ways, very brave and very talented.

Why do female architects still not receive the recognition their work deserves?

Architecture remains a man`s world, such as the construction and the real estate. Things are changing, but it seems that the choice between career or children is still present. For me personally it has been incredible to grow alongside Sou who, on the contrary, pushed me to the front. Even nowadays it is still rare to meet someone like him, who is looking at you regardless your origin, your gender or your age.

What do you look for in “good architecture”?

I look for a space that moves me, but also makes sense, that questions its use and has a beautiful harmony with the surroundings.

Your proudest achievement?

The White Tree built in Montpellier. My first building with Sou, and not a small one. But the proudest would be to open the Paris office and build up this wonderful team we have.

Where do you go to escape?

Through my drawings. I like to paint little fantasy worlds mixed up with writings, that gather thoughts and reflections. And I like the forest.

What does the future living in an urban environment will look like to you?

The most important question will be, how will we integrate nature into an existing city? We are looking into greener and more sustainable environments and spaces that can be used in multiple ways. And there is a lot of research being made in terms of reusable or locally made materials. There is a true concern and actual drive to build in harmony with nature in the future.
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