f+f architects are a Parisian architectural firm with a portfolio ranging from interior projects and furniture design, to large scale cultural facilities and urban planning. Their contemporary design approach derives context from physical, cultural, social, economic and historic surroundings, always including a strong sense of materiality, specificity, proportions and modern technical solutions. We caught up with founding partner Johan Fritzell to talk about his upcoming projects, how he divides his time between the company’s two offices in Paris and Strasbourg and his predictions for architecture and interior trends to watch in 2017.
Welcome to Creativepool Johan! What would you say the f+f approach to architecture and design is?
Within all our projects we always strive to use a limited material palette, creating a neutral setting that the user can easily adopt, take over and make their own. We have a graphic-like approach to the design of interiors and their elevations and we try to encompass all scales, right down to the smallest details in our integrated furnishing. We pursue what we call a clear line or a ‘continuity’ by removing any excess whilst still offering warmth, comfort and order.
We have an organic approach where spaces and activities are allowed to overlap. In recent projects for example, the corridors are not just a means to get from one room to another. Instead they are spaces that contract and expand, creating pockets where users can interact and communicate.
You recently opened a second office in Strasbourg. How big is the f+f team now, how do the two offices work together?
We are still a small firm of five people, with three of us based in Paris where most of our projects are located. Recently however, we have received several commissions for larger projects in the east of France (such as a hotel and restaurant in Colmar, a community center in Reims, and a large retail and housing development in Strasbourg) which justified the need to open a second office.
One great thing with this profession is that when you are working on the creative part of a project you don’t have to be physically tied to any specific location. But when you’re in the construction phase you do need to be physically and locally present.
You work across a variety of different spaces including retail, interior, public and residential. Do you have a preferred? Or one where you feel particularly in your element?
We really enjoy the diversity of our work. It is a profession where you can be easily catalogued because you created one successful project so we have no true preference. But we enjoy fulfilling public or retail briefs because so many different users will engage with the end result.
Can you talk us through one of your favourite projects from 2016?
I would say the Community Center in Orgeval, Reims, because it’s our first completed public building. The center is part of the renewal of a worn-down, 1960’s social-housing, estate area, with high unemployment and low education rates. There were few activities in the local area and high levels of criminality.
The brief was to create a new center to aid with the area's renewal and to offer activities to the inhabitants of the area, including a theater and event space, fitness and sports facilities, workshops spaces, meeting rooms, classrooms, doctor’s offices, a kindergarten, a hangout for teenagers, activity spaces for the elderly and offices for social workers.
It was a competition invite where applicants were asked to stack the program in a particular order. We inverted this order so that the workshops, studios, sports spaces, meeting rooms could be seen from street level, inviting local inhabitants inside to incite and engage them.
And what's been one of your more creatively challenging projects?
Again, the Community Center project was complex for several reasons. There were very many different programmatic elements and each user or client had a different need. The topography was also complex with a great many differences between the street entrance and the entrance. Local building regulations meant that more than half of the main facade had to be adjoined to another building as well.
The most creatively challenging projects are probably the early projects though where you don’t have an existing body of work. This is often the case with private interiors. The challenge is to create something that is satisfying for both parties, to you in terms of quality of work and your client in terms of envisioned spaces.
Who should we be looking out for in the world of architecture and interiors at the moment?
We are great fans of John Pawson’s interiors because they’re truly timeless and similarly Marcio Kogan (Studio MK27). We can’t help but envy Kogan for his clients and for managing to build in a subtropical climate where the limit between outside and inside can be blurred. Also Aires Mateus and Fran Silvestre for their clean new modernism.
What trends do you predict across architecture and interiors for the coming year?
More colours, and for architecture a more stripped down, mechanistic approach to buildings such as Studio Muoto’s Lieu de Vie.
What new areas would f+f like to explore in the coming year?
More diversity, as well as spaces for exhibition and culture.