Since Eve and Adam got kicked out of Eden, architects have taken on the extra burden; not only of designing structures essential to our shelter, but also of attempting to recreate the original Utopian state, when all was ease and abundance. Idealised planning systems such as Walt Disney’s EPCOT ‘Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow’ Centre or Le Corbusier’s ‘Plan Voisin’ have generally fallen out of favour, but French Architect Francois Perrin is still pushing for his own perfect world.
“Groups like Superstudio in Italy, Archigram in England, Haus Rucker in Austria and Ant Farm in the USA dreamed of the future, but could never make it happen at the time because it was too early and visionary. But maybe we are living in part of it today through our immaterial connection to the world,” says Perrin, who studied in Paris, but has been based in LA (a city built on dreams) for almost two decades.
“The first architectural book I bought was on Frank Lloyd Wright’s California projects,” he says. “I remember seeing a picture of Frank Gehry’s own house in Santa Monica, and something clicked in my head.” An active surfer and skater, Perrin’s own pivotal contribution is ‘PAS Skate House’ – the dream home of anyone who wants to ollie-at-all-hours. Commissioned by founder and CEO of Etnies Pierre Andre Senizergues on the occasion of the company’s 25th anniversary and built in collaboration the designer (and fellow skater) Gil Lebon Delapointe, it was part of a project for exhibition on skate culture “Public Domain” at La Gaite Lyrique in Paris in 2011.
“At first they wanted to just present images and models but I pushed them to build a full scale prototype so the pro-skaters and legends present during the exhibition could see it and try it too.” Each surface was chosen for durability and both exterior and interior walls are curved, skate-able surfaces, making the house – designed to be built in Malibu – a fluid, tube-like Moebius loop.
Perrin’s other structures in LA are based around the idea of ‘Air Architecture’, a term he takes from the writing of the artist Yves Klein, who “wanted to create an invisible/immaterial architecture that would create the perfect climate through the use of natural elements like air, fire and water.” Perrin doesn’t use aircon in his projects, instead ensuring the structures “merge with their surrounding landscape and have a constant interaction with the elements.” For his California Bungalow in Venice, he decided to “create a radical extension by slashing the back of the house creating a new volume and using materials that would respond more to the orientation of the house and its relationship with the elements.”
For his latest project, he’s building a ‘Cloudgarden’ for a Beverly Hills house formerly owned by legendary Hollywood director Billy Wilder: “One of the oldest structures in the city, it was built in 1913. The project was expanded 50 years later by a mid-century modern addition. So, another 50 years later, I created a grid as a third layer that would exist on its own, but also connect to the existing elements.”