Antonin Ziegler

Architect, Paris

Antonin Ziegler

Architect, Paris

Antonin Ziegler

Architect, Paris

At a time when most architects dream only of superlative descriptors and building immense structures, Antonin Ziegler seeks to return to the very foundations of architecture, namely, the private home. This philosophy can be traced back to the Parisian’s earliest strides, where he wrote his student dissertation on the most basic of architectural components - the wall. After graduating in 2003, he quickly ascended the ranks of large firms such as Paul Chemetov in Paris, CBA Architecture in Rouen, and YH2 in Montréal before returning to Paris in 2012. Here, he founded his own studio, firmly focused on the architecture of the personal domain. Antonin Ziegler’s own space, which he conceived for himself, his partner, and his architectural studio, was built upwards on a plot of 35m² on a quiet street in a suburb of the city. Standing narrow and tall behind an iron gate, Le 107, as it has come to be known, is a sculptural portrait of the independent architect, which he invited us to discover.

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The first thing anyone will notice about Le 107 is the building’s hyper-efficient use of space. What can you tell us about working within tight constraints?

Constraints enable me to be more creative - it is within limits that we can express ourselves. With Le 107, I didn’t find them particularly restricting. In fact, being my own client, I only had the building codes and the budget to worry about, which I found to be quite liberating. Interestingly, the small size of the plot of land was less of a concern than the height limit dictated by the neighbourhood. I had to get creative in order to get the most out of it.

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Can you share specific strategies that helped you maximize the space?

What makes Le 107 work is a mix of verticality and openness. It feels bigger than it is. The ground floor, for example, opens with large bay windows towards the street in the front and with a patio extension to the back, effectively enlarging the interior space both ways. The upper two floors are just as open and cascade into one another via sets of stairs. It’s a loft—but vertical. I’m generally drawn to the idea that rooms can be interchangeable, that their purpose isn’t set in stone. I wanted my home to be somewhat dreamlike, to live by its own rules.

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Le 107’s facade is a playful collage of sheet metal, wood, raw concrete, and grey bricks. Tell us about the materials you chose to work with for your house.

I chose modest materials that blend in with the neighborhood. They had to be economical, too, so I could afford the large bay windows, which were a significant chunk of the building’s budget. I generally dislike materials that imitate or hide. I also aim for material coherence: whenever possible I use the same materials for a building’s exterior and its interior.

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Le 107’s external structure and interior design indeed appear seamless. Do you differentiate between the architecture and the interior design at all?

For me there is no difference between the two—there can’t be any as a building must be considered as a whole. I draw the exterior facades at the same time as I conceive the interior, and I can’t imagine working in any other way. It would be like a painter who only paints half the picture. It’s all about maintaining the cohesiveness of the vision.

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An important part of your cohesive vision is the kitchen. Throughout your work you design them as open, light-filled spaces for people to not only eat and cook, but to live in. What’s your design philosophy for a modern kitchen?

In all of my projects the kitchen is the center of the house. I enjoy designing them behind large windows, since that’s where life is lived and where people spend their time—they’re as interesting to observe as they are to live in. It doesn’t matter whether it’s small or spacious, or if only has two pieces of furniture, what’s important is that the kitchen is at the heart of the home. My own kitchen, for example, operates as the base of Le 107 and is visible from every angle in the house. I may not cook that often, but I spend a lot of time there.

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left-com What’s important is that the kitchen is at the heart of the home. right-com

There is a lot of innovation in kitchen appliances of late - from modularity to connectivity. Is there a trend you find particularly significant or useful?

What interests me in the technological evolution of kitchen appliances is the seamlessness of their integration - to the point of disappearance. When the fridge, the dishwasher, and the oven hood become invisible, the kitchen can suddenly have other functions. This opens up a lot of possibilities for how the space is used as well as for how it can be designed.

Your studio is just one floor up, on a mezzanine. How do you balance your personal life with your professional life, when the two play out in such close proximity?

I strictly separate the two. All my design work happens in the studio and I never do anything workrelated elsewhere in the house. So in that regard I’m like everybody else: after a long day or drawing, I look forward to leaving the office in favor of other spaces and other activities.

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When you worked with big architecture firms in Paris, Rouen, and Montreal you directed entire teams. Now, your studio has a single desk. Do you prefer to work alone?

I do indeed. When I take on a project now, I only design what I am capable of getting done myself. This is what I like about the scale of the individual house: I can realize my vision independently and remain in full control. But there’s more to it: I enjoy designing homes because they’re the very essence of architecture; one of our most primal instincts is to find shelter. As an architect, the first thing you sketch is a line delimiting space on which a wall is built.

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Where most architects hire architectural photographers to capture their work, you document your work yourself. Even more so, you visualize architecture for third parties via 213613®, a studio for digital imagery you run on the side. Are your designs informed by your photographic eye?

Photography intimately relates to architecture - so much so that I wonder whether I might have become an architect in order to create spaces to photograph. I frame each view that I design within a home like a shot. In fact, the softwares I use calculate light intensity just like a camera would, and enable me to adjust my designs accordingly. Sometimes, I feel like my work is that of a scenographer.

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Finally, Le 107 can serve as a model example for how to deal with the lack of space in ever denser cities, a hot button issue for today’s architects and urban planners. How would you like to see the urban landscape evolve?

I like dense cities where every nook and niche is filled. In my opinion, France’s building laws and regulations are way too strict when it comes to density. A city like Paris, for example, could grow vertically, if we would be able to build on top of existing roofs. Density is catalyst for creativity that forces architects and urban planners to think about new forms of housing and public space. And new forms are desperately needed, as we cannot let our cities sprawl indefinitely.

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left-com I never look for a specific project. In my view, the most important factor is that of the creative freedom the client is willing to give me. right-com