Moreau Kusunoki Architects
Established in Paris in 2011, Moreau Kusunoki Architectes inserted itself discreetly into the roster of young architects in France. Out of reserve, the firm deliberately held back from all forms of media attention, in the belief that architecture is best conceived through reserve and introspection, which are favorable to the emergence of poetic visions.
The firm would not have existed without Japan. Hiroko was born there and earned her degree from the Shibaura Institute of Technology in Tokyo. Nicolas Moreau, a former student in the Ecole Nationale d’Architecture de Belleville, in Paris, discovered the Japanese archipelago in 2003, almost by accident. It was in Tokyo where the two had their first professional experience, working with internationally renowned architects: Shigeru Ban for Hiroko, SANAA and Kengo Kuma for Nicolas. Passing through the studios of people they consider masters, they learned a number of lessons: the art of construction from Ban, programmatic and spatial investigation from SANAA and a sensibility for materials from Kuma. In 2008, they left Tokyo for France, where Nicolas opened Kengo Kuma’s European office. It was primarily occupied with the Frac project in Marseille and the City of Arts and Culture in Besançon.
The French system of public commissions, made through the organization of competitions open to young architects, gave them the opportunity to open their own office. The new Théâtre de Beauvaisis, in Beauvais, was the first project they were awarded. They subsequently won the competitions for the House of Cultures and Memories in Cayenne, the Polytechnic School of Engineering in Bourget-du-Lac, the plaza for the District new Paris Justice Court (designed by Renzo Piano) and for the Guggenheim Museum in Helsinki. Currently, they are working as the winning entry on the Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta, the second largest cultural equipment of the state were 74 teams and 529 individual firms have competed. The cultural duality of the architects is legible in all of the projects conceived by the practice. From Japan, the architects retain a passion for detail. The project begins with the infinitesimal—a joint in a wall, a tile—and is carried forward to the scale of an object whose presence necessarily jostles the existing city, according to an entirely Western logic of urbanism.
The difference of their maternal tongues creates a feeling of “in-between” for Nicolas Moreau and Hiroko Kusunoki - the distance between them abolished by the language of design. Rather than make a building that springs from an idea, the two partners prefer the testing and research of objects, following a Japanese trait: drawings and models allowing them to approach the final form slowly. Intuition and feeling, more than reason, provide the rightness of a solution. The concept of “in-between,” known as ma in Japanese, is found often in the architecture of Moreau Kusunoki. Between two buildings is the space of possibilities, in which life develops. In the case of the Guggenheim Helsinki, this concept comes to life through the interstitial spaces of circulation - bringing together and separating the exhibition halls. The appropriation of the ma by the users is the sign of a building’s success.