By Cecilia Pelloux / February 5, 2019 / Forbes
Jean Michel Wilmotte, The Art of Architecture
In November, I sat down with Jean-Michel Wilmotte in his office in Paris, rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine, the headquarters of Wilmotte & Associés. For more than 40 years, Jean-Michel Wilmotte and his team are leading projects all over the world and are working in 28 countries. Today, W&A unites 272 architects, urban planners, designers, museography specialists and interior designers. Recently the firm completed in Paris: Station F, the world’s biggest startup campus, the Russian Orthodox Spiritual and Cultural Center, and the refurbishment of the Hotel Lutetia. Other recent commissions for the practice include the Sciences Po Campus and the Austerlitz Train Station in Paris, the European University of Saint Petersburg in Russia, ArcelorMittal worldwide new headquarters in Luxembourg, Bleu Ciel residential tower in Dallas and the UN headquarters for West Africa in Senegal. Here is my interview.
What could we learn from your exceptional career?
I do like this job in spite of the difficulties because it is my passion! I belong to a generation that expresses itself depending on the geopolitical and human situation. When we live in an era, we share the same political, geographical, intellectual, artistic and life elements. When you are a creative person, an architect, all your projects are the results of the combination of those elements that makes who you are.
How could you describe your career?
I would say that my career is very diverse. From the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice to an Orthodox Cathedral in Paris, the headquarters of The United Nations for West Africa in Senegal or a Tower in Dallas, I like the diversity of my work and that makes it very interesting. I think the most important is to be true and not to be influenced by trends and others thoughts. It is not always easy as there are a lot of influences, contingencies and laws. I think we need to be a lot more concerned by human projects. It is also important to work on public spaces and not only on private ones. We have to adapt our knowledges continually. Recently, we have built a very luxurious chalet in Courchevel but we have also worked on an affordable housing project for local people in the ski resort. It’s important to stay in the reality of the world we live in. For example, we have been involved in the urban vision of the Greater Moscow but we have worked on an urban project in a small village near the Enclaves des Papes in France. This diversity of scales is very fascinating. Town planning is interesting but we also need to focus our attention on smaller scale projects. In France, rural spaces are deserted and it is really sad. Last week I was in Champagne Pouilleuse area, I did not see anybody, maybe just one or two cars, and all the stores were closed. We -architects- have to try to bring back life in those areas, and to balance empty and dense areas. I am obviously lucky but I also provoked my luck. Today, we work on different scales projects but when I started, we only did interior design then private furniture projects. Wilmotte & Associés is currently an international design practice with a multicultural team and works in 28 countries around the world.