Interview with Architect Michael Herrman, USA
- Where do you come from and what brought you to Paris?
I spent most of my childhood in the US, mainly in Miami. I received degrees in architecture from Cornell and Princeton universities. Then I spent a decade working in architects’ studios throughout the world. Eventually, I joined the studio of French architect Jean Nouvel in Paris. This gave me the rare opportunity to work on one of the largest museum projects of the past 20 years, the Musée du Quai Branly. I collaborated on the design of its rooftop restaurant, Les Ombres, with its sculptural canopy and view of the Eiffel Tower.
After four years with Jean Nouvel, in 2003 I was awarded the Rome Prize in architecture. I stayed in Rome for several years, which enabled me to start working independently. Then I returned to Paris, where I founded my practice. It focuses on various types of projects, including residential projects in Rome and Paris, as well as other cities in Europe.
What are the three biggest challenges Paris had in store for you, both in terms of working here and living here?
Having to negotiate complex planning and preservation laws in Paris for my clients has been both a challenge and an inspiration. This has enabled me to develop a respect for and sensitivity to history and to find new ways to combine this with contemporary design and new building techniques and technologies.
The difference between the US and France in terms of the types of materials and construction techniques was a challenge at first. But it became an advantage as I learned how to use the incredible skill of French manufacturing to create custom-designed and produced components of projects – from complex steel and glass structural pieces to elegant well-crafted furniture. Unlike what I experienced in the US, there’s a natural tendency in France for customization rather than mass-produced standardization.
I also had to adjust to the annual vacations and holidays in France, when the construction and manufacturing industries shut down. This requires extra organization to ensure that materials and labor are available when you need them and that deadlines are not compromised. I’ve also come to appreciate the benefits of these breaks, when you can truly take time off.
- In terms of your profession, how has Paris real estate changed over the past 10 years?
Over the past 10 years, I’ve found that the types of properties on the market have become more diverse. New insulation materials and silent air-conditioning systems are available. And city planners are open to improving the interiors of buildings. This means that ground floor areas, the upper floors of maids’ rooms, and other spaces not traditionally considered ideal residences have become increasingly accessible. They often offer more scope for creating beautiful, unique spaces than the more traditional mid-level apartments.
Source: Paris Property Group