Joseph Dirand has been sharpening his eye since childhood, he knows how to see, a rare quality indeed. He sees the space and perspective of a place. His sense for composition comes from his creative family background, he has a scenographer’s eye and frames volume with extreme precision. Dirand is sensitive to the way light plays on relief and flat surfaces, he analyses structure, notices the tiniest of details, observes a material’s abundance of features and appreciates the rightness of a color.Source
Where are you originally from?
I am from Paris. I am a loyal Parisian.
How did your childhood and your surrounding have influenced you into becoming an architect? When did you decide about it?
I think I must have been 6 to 7 years old. My father was an architectural photographer and he inspired me greatly. I grew up in an environment where every night at supper my father would show slides of interior and architectural photography. I have discovered so much with him. Those extraordinary places, eccentric interiors and personalities have caused a curiosity within me. The experience taught me in lots of ways. It was a true education, liberty and opportunity for me to see so much interior spaces.
Those discoveries nourished my education, it developed my sensibility towards Architecture. Also, I think my father dreamed of becoming an architect himself and he lived it through his camera lens. He transmitted his passion and wish to me.
Do you go back to his archives often?
I wish! But we have to take care of it. They are thousands of slides. Someone should take care of it and go through all of them and make a book out of them. I have too much work to do it myself. But it would be amazing to go back to those amazing spaces and some were perhaps never revisited again.
What do Sunday symbolizes to you creatively?
Sundays were very different for me a few years ago. I would appreciate them and would enjoy going to the office, that had a beautiful view, and work alone in complete harmony and solitude. I loved the energy outside during the weekend while, I, was working. But nowadays I need to find time for myself. You see, after so much work one needs to use Sundays for inspiration. To walk around, go to libraries, read, travel, visit exhibitions, see people that inspire you etc. So now I don’t do office on Sundays anymore. But I do work once or twice a week late at night at home with music. I sit down from midnight till 4 am to work on new projects and sketch.
In the process of making a project, what phase do you like the most?
I think each phase has different qualities. But I love the post-“digestion” phase. I like to digest the project, meaning the moment I attack the project. The first few seconds of my sketches are where the ideas appear into the surface. Sometimes major ideas come over a few seconds. You find your direction with one pen trace. And then of course there are different joys in the process of the project such as the time you start to see the technical side of it. The collaborations between the workers on the site and the moment where you hand in the project to them. Same when you reveal your project to the public and seeing their impressions. These are all moments that I cherish greatly. The project is mine as long as I have not delivered it. I work on everything as if it is my place. But at the very end I have to give it up, I have to separate from it. And it’s a great precious joy to hand it to someone else.
Can you tell us about your creative process?
When projects arrive, first we decide which one we will work on. I like projects that are different and places that I have never worked on before that has a certain impact on the city. Like Restaurants, Boutique hotels etc.
Once the project picked I digest ,t. Then starts the researching, what does it reference to, what period is it Etc.
I start working on the research alone. Isolated in my office. I translate with my hand drawn sketches on trace paper the skeleton of the plan; the perspective, its rhythms, inspirations, plans etc. I do Impressions over impressions.
At the same time I do the planning of the sequences in my head. I create a storyboard, exactly like in film making.
Then I pick 1 or 2 persons from my team that would fit with the project and meet with them in my office. I share the project and we talk about the technical side. Once we start to work on it, it becomes even more interesting. I always ask to my team to challenge me. Sometimes they confirm my ideas, other times their critiques make me consider my initial thoughts and I decide to move to another direction. Working on something as a team is amazing. I am attached to my team, they are dazzled by the projects and collaborations and they stay for long terms in the studio.
Your work includes a lot monochrome palette. How is your relationship with colors? What does black signify to you? And white?
17 years ago, things have evolved for me. Nowadays I am an architect that uses a lot of Black and White but during the first years I used minimal colors. As time passed my work became more radical and I abandoned colors.
I like the perspective, the contrast of black and white, the tense relationship between each other; the classic and the abstract. The white elevates the black and vice versa. Black and white, are both the very essence. Of course it depends of the project as well but I often find myself coming back to using black and white in the need of the project. All creative processes are different of course. Today I like to use a touch of color in the sphere of the space. For example we are currently working on the Fours Seasons in Miami and we use a lot of colors for that project. Nevertheless Black and white, both, taught me greatly about colors.
How do you work with the history of a space? How do you handle it?
Everything has a story. I am here to confront the past with the life of today and with that I try to escape from the notion of time. I like to add a context, a new approach.
What about Light?
Nothing exists without Light. I grew up with the significant presence of the light in each picture that my dad took; discovering the framing and the light contrasts. How it reacts and how the light changes in the morning and in the night. How it can be used either artificially or naturally. The project doesn’t interest me if the light is poor. There are no rhythms without light. The place wakes up with light and without it there is no poem. I will often work with the spaces with no light in a darker way and if there is some light I will push the work for it to be clearer. By making a non-light place darker I enlarge the space. For example I worked on a bathroom with no light. So instead of trying to find a way to integrate light I painted all the walls in black. It is a game of reflections. By using black and white I learned how to handle and work the light. I use my palette of black and white as a reference.
As an Architect you always seem to be inspired and attached to the past and story of the place and prefer to work with it rather than destroying it, can you elaborate?
I love to work in a context. That context can also be a landscape. I am currently working on a house in the desert with the view of pyramids. So I take that detail and interpret it. There is always something to use. I create the stories and complete them. When I created Monsieur Bleu I referenced myself to the years of the thirties, to the fascist period of Architecture in Paris. The idea of the grandiose, the brasserie. Xxxx
What are your connections to the fashion world? What drives you so much in it?
Fashion brands pick me. But the adventure started 21 years ago with the brand Junk and then a few more stores but then I worked on Balmain and that is when everything changed. I wanted to approach its history and story. I wanted that each room is legitimate to its past. Pierre Balmain even did his studio within the building. I was inspired by that rock side of Balmain compared to its Haute Couture history. The world is changing evolving but with always with a past. After the success of Balmain came Rick Owens who is also a good friend and someone with whom we work and inspire each other. Then came Chloe, Alexander Wang, Balenciaga, Givenchy etc. I always stay true to their past and present, to who they are. I am a storyteller. When we create, we have to speak about the brand and create the context for them. When their past is rich its of course easier. But if the brand is younger than its harder. For me the important part is to express and reflect them in the most legitimate and the most logic way. I tell stories and I have a specific way of writing. But I get inspired of what they express. We always have to acknowledge contrast. We always must accompany the story and affront it as well. Balmain is a perfect example, a minimalist architecture compared to Haute Couture.
How is your initial dialogue with a client? What are your first questions to them?
When I meet new clients I always listen to them first and ask myself if I like their story, what inspires me in it etc. I pick people with whom we can create together. I don’t just do services. It is important for me to create together.
Who or what is your outmost inspiration?
Today we have all the strong utilities to do some research. I spend hours of searching, researching on the web, books, general and fashion magazines etc. We need to understand in permanence and stay updated. We need to be fed and react, we need to the sensible to the world of today. We need to stay honest to the project and to ourselves.
If you had to compare one project of yours to a movie which one will it be? What about a music style, or specific song? And why?
I was very much inspired by Stanley Kubrick for Balmain and by Playtime of Jacques Tati for Hotel xxxx.
How do you do it all, work, create, manage a team, socialize, cook etc.?
17 years ago, the phone didn’t ring as much as it does today. Today I don’t have time to ask myself this question; to me the more the merrier. We always want more. We are nourished by the energy and from there on it increases. We never have enough. But we need to sacrifice some time for life pleasures, we just need to cut out unnecessary things from your agenda. Like watching TV, hanging out with people that don’t inspire you and so on. I make sure to spend some time for travels, inspirations, and discover new places. We need to be fed by new cultures. It is a balance.
And do you ever get stuck? Then what?
I rarely get stuck. I have enough experience now not to get stuck. If you understand the subject you have the response. You don’t need to go too far, you have the answer, it comes out easily by itself.
What do you like most about Paris?
I love Paris! it is a place that is attached to the quality of life and to the intellectual choice. It is no a city that is directed according to the social success. I enjoy its rhythm and am happy each time I am back home.
Can you tell us just a few words about your love for marbles?
I am very much attached to marbles especially to their minimal styles. I like their violence, tension, force, how graphic they are, and I like to bring those elements into a neutral space. It is fascinating that nature created such a force, and there are so many varieties. I love to search for new ones, especially in Italy where we get to go to for research. Italy has amazing resources, it is a platform for marble commerce and they often communicate with us if they ever have a new find. Sometimes a project takes a specific direction only due to and interesting found marble.
Can you share a few of your next projects?
I have more and more new projects on restaurants and hotels like the Four Seasons Hotel in Miami. It is a passionate exercise, working on hotels, they are so interconnected with the travel experience of someone. It becomes connected to the city and memories. I like to stay close to the idea of sharing, of reunion, of traveling. In all of the places I design I want people to share something with one another under the atmosphere of that place. I want to participate in the world rather than live and work only in private worlds. I want people to live my work and experience it. I want the work to breath within them.