House in Bordeaux is built on a dilemma: can architecture address, at the same time, highly specific demands – make life livable for a severely handicapped person – AND offer a family the freedom to live their lives the way they want…some have commented on this twin ambition as if it was slightly absurd to even try.
If we consider furniture as the mediation between architecture and real life, then the tension between the openness of the house and its uniquely specific agenda, is most manifest on the middle level, a glass box, opening to all sides, where any furniture is harshly tested and exposed: too traditional, too designed, too fashionable, too tasteful, too modernist, too vintage, too pretty, too cheap…almost always too. And if individual pieces work, it’s hard to make them interact…the mission of the architecture, the richness of the landscape outside almost suggest the middle level would work best without any furniture at all, strictly as architecture…
The more I understood Pierre Paulin’s work, especially after the 2016 Beaubourg show, I recognised a temperament that wanted to operate on the full spectrum of furniture’s range and, in fact, extend it: from the hyper-specific work for French presidents – political, historicist, verging on perversity – to experimentation in a domain almost beyond furniture: furniture not as the design of specific pieces, but as the invention of an additional layer of possibility, extending across any architecture, offering a vast spectrum of new and unexpected potentials, to lounge, talk, eat, sleep and, obviously, any other interaction that might occur between the inhabitants, liberated from the unwelcome limitations that any specific piece of furniture inevitably imposes.
To see Paulin’s utopia realised in Bordeaux, offers a real opportunity to judge the interaction of two kinds of ‘liberation’.
– Rem Koolhaas