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Interview with Delphine Aboulker

By 15 December 2022April 19th, 2024No Comments

On the occasion of the release of her first book, Maisons rêvées, published by Alternatives (Gallimard), Delphine Aboulker, co-founder of Architecture de Collection and creator of the Archinovo Prize, shares her views on the current state of the single-family home.

  • Why write about single-family homes?

80% of French people dream of owning a single-family home, considered by many to be the ideal way to live. With the majority of French people living in one, it’s also an object of desire and dream that crosses all social categories, generations and eras.For the architect, the single-family home is often the first gesture, the fundamental laboratory that has enabled the greatest architects to develop a plastic language and experiment with new practices on a small scale.Today, it’s also a highly topical theme in a context of withdrawal into private space and successive confinements, which have highlighted the importance of the living space, and the central place it occupies in our daily lives and as a family.

IF ARCHITECTURE, Maison serpentine, Lavaur (81), © BERNARD Sandra

Atelier d’Ici, Extension d’un Moulin, Ploudalmézeau (29), © Pascal Leopold

AVENIER & CORNEJO ARCHITECTES, Maison 2G, Orsay (91), © CHALMEAU Stéphane © PALMA Cristobal

Brachard de Tourdonnet + Fanny Perier, Maison du Lac, Lacanau (33), © Fabienne DELAFRAYE © Jean-Christophe GARCIA © Arnaud SAINT-GERMES

  • Who’s it for Maison rêvées?

First of all to the general public, because although there are many publications worldwide dedicated to architects’ houses, none of them has been about France, and that’s been the case for almost twenty years!This book is an aesthetic, visual object that showcases exceptional, original, unique and unexpected homes that fuel the imagination and are a source of ever-renewed inspiration.But it also has real scientific and historical depth for expert readers. The book traces the evolution of the aristocratic villa, which democratized in the 19th century, winning over the bourgeoisie and then gradually all social categories, positioning itself at the crossroads of numerous social issues.The houses presented are part of the Archinovo Prize, the first architectural award for contemporary houses in France, which I created in 2011, with the primary aim of democratizing the architect’s house, by making it known to the general public.

  • How is the home an integral part of today’s social issues?

First and foremost, the home questions our relationship with ecology: it must reinvent itself while respecting the imperatives of sustainable development. To achieve this, architects are inventing flexible, modular spaces, imagining ways of building on and with existing structures, using bio-geo-sourced materials, integrating re-use into their construction sites and reducing their carbon footprint to a minimum.The house also raises the question of collective living, proposing alternatives to the historical opposition between collective housing and single-family homes; in this sense, grouped and semi-detached houses make it possible to pool resources and land.The home remains the ideal living environment, and in the wake of the pandemics of the last three years, it has regained the central place it has always occupied in our lives, down through the centuries and across the ages.

CLAAS Architectes, Maison dans un pré, Les-Lucs-sur-Boulogne (85), © Myriam Heaulme

STUDIO A&P, Maison BBC, Blaringhem (59), © LIVERANI Elsa

AVENIER & CORNEJO ARCHITECTES, Maison 2G, Orsay (91), © CHALMEAU Stéphane © PALMA Cristobal

LODE Architecture, River House, Finistère (29), © Daniel Moulinet

  • Why call  on an architect to build your home?

Today, only 5% of homes in France are built by architects. Long reserved for the bourgeoisie, and sometimes considered to be devoted to a superficial aesthetic quest, architects’ houses still suffer from prejudice. If a luxury villa signed by a famous architect, in the tradition of the mythical architectures of modernity, is not within everyone’s reach, contemporary architecture is no longer reserved for the elite: it is becoming more sober and democratized.Today, the architect’s house takes into account the client’s expectations, as closely as possible to his needs and means. This ongoing dialogue between architect and client creates a unique, original and accessible place to live, perfectly integrated into the surrounding environment.While it’s true that design by an architect is 8-15% more expensive, commissioning one translates into long-term added value on resale, and the young French architectural scene offers inventive, more modest, sustainable projects that are accessible to all budgets.CAUE (Conseil d’Architecture, d’Urbanisme et de l’Environnement) and Maisons d’Architecture are structures that can facilitate meetings between project owners and architects. CAUEs offer a wide range of resources, as well as exchanges with consulting architects, which can be a fruitful first contact for private individuals.

RAUM, Maison de Vacances, Sarzeau (56), © Audrey Cerdan

PUIG – PUJOL, Maison Camouflée, Lesponne (65), © RUAULT Philippe

  • How to build an eco-friendly home ?

Taking environmental impact into account is now a must in the architectural sector. Today, every architect’s home is sustainable, and many agencies are committed to a more sober, economical and resilient approach to construction. The 40 houses presented in this book highlight the aesthetic and, above all, ecological value of bio- and geo-sourced materials such as wood, hemp, straw, cellulose wadding, recycled textiles, cork, flax, thatch and grass, all of which offer excellent thermal properties and help to reduce energy consumption.These houses illustrate the currents of the current French architectural scene, showing how architects are reappropriating vernacular techniques derived from ancestral know-how, while developing innovative solutions, such as green roofing, the creation of waterspout walls or the use of raw earth and cob insulation. Architects are also mobilizing technology, for example by installing solar and/or photovoltaic panels.

  • What will tomorrow’s architect-designed home look like?

The evolution of techniques once again testifies to the central place of the home in our lives. Now more than ever, the home is at the heart of ecological issues, innovation, the quest for aesthetics and the reinvention of traditions. Today, new ways of living are emerging that raise questions about intergenerational living, group housing, and our relationship with nature, light and the ground. Our new desires for living integrate the ecological dimension, by returning to the founding principles of habitat, where form serves function, and materials and techniques create aesthetics.These ideal homes are the embodiment of a new vision for building tomorrow, and are heirs to the first great precursors, such as Franck Lloyd Wright, who might have said of them: “Simplicity is the perfect harmony between the beautiful, the useful and the just”.

Delphine Aboulker

Maisons rêvées, 40 maisons d’architectes made in France

Editions Alternatives (Gallimard) – Collection Architecture
240 pages / Broché avec rabats / 22 x 24 cm
35 €


Delphine Aboulker is an academic, architect and art historian, and co-founder of the Architecture de Collection agency. She is currently deputy director of the Ecole de Chaillot.A specialist in single-family homes, in 2011 she created the Prix Archinovo, the first architecture prize dedicated to single-family homes, a subject she has made her specialty and to which she dedicated her doctoral thesis.