PARIS -- Don't mention nostalgia to Christian Biecher, the architect and interior designer perhaps best known for some of the most fashionable eateries in Paris, including Korova and its forthcoming spinoff at...
PARIS -- Don't mention nostalgia to Christian Biecher, the architect and interior designer perhaps best known for some of the most fashionable eateries in Paris, including Korova and its forthcoming spinoff at the Louvre. An exhibition of his designs will run at the Museum of Decorative Arts here from March 14 to April 28. A resolute modernist, his mind is boggled as to why people are so attached to the past when it comes to their surroundings.
"I hate all this stuff that has to do with nostalgia. I cannot see the point of buying Louis XV furniture today and putting a computer on top of it," he said. "I could never live in an environment that refers only to the past. I want to live in a modern era. I want to be happy to live in 2002."
Luckily, he's making progress in the face of a retro-obsessed culture. Shortly after Korova opened in October 2000, Biecher spent some time quizzing diners on their experience. Many of them were surprised to find a modern environment that was actually warm, and that warmed Biecher's heart, since modernism is frequently derided for being cold, uncomfortable and dehumanizing.
A rising star in European architecture and a dashing fixture on Paris's fashion and party circuit, Biecher allowed that the round shapes he currently favors may "echo" the Seventies. But he's got his eyes trained firmly on the future.
"I don't do orange walls and purple furniture," he said. "I have to think about how I would like to live with this furniture or in this environment years from now. The things I design have to last at least five, 10 or 30 years without becoming old-fashioned or obsolete."
Biecher has a theory as to why the "Brady Bunch" esthetic is now so omnipresent in applied arts: His thirtysomething contemporaries, who grew up surrounded by plastic furniture and gaudy wallpaper, are now making their mark on fashion, interior design and architecture.
A graduate of the Paris Belleville School of Architecture, Biecher set up his own design firm in 1997. He has designed hospitals, libraries, schools and community centers in Europe and Asia, as well as furniture and tableware for a variety of manufacturers. But he credits his friend Marie-Helene de Taillac, the jewelry designer, for introducing him to the world of fashion. His projects have included Issey Miyake's headquarters in Tokyo as well as the Joseph, Lucien Pellat-Finet and Tsumori Chisato boutiques in Paris.As he gears up for the exhibition at the Museum of Decorative Arts, Biecher has noticed a progression in his work.
"I use less and less colors," he said. "I like to produce the color with light. The new technology with light is incredible. Every six months, there's some entirely new technology."
If there's a common thread across his designs, from wedge-like chairs to translucent bookshelves, Biecher said he values "fluidity and movement." Getting to the sociological roots of his work, he said, round and wavy shapes reflect today's less rigid family and class definitions. Round shapes, he said, "activate movement, even if it's not conscious."
Biecher also is heavily influenced by technology.
"The eye is getting familiar with all the computers and screens we have in our lives," he said. "I like to use light that is more mysterious, more electronic. I always try to have limits vanish or become more virtual. For example, at Korova, I used light and fabrics in combination so you don't actually notice where the walls are. It's a question of freedom. I design spaces where I want people to feel free -- not trapped or claustrophobic."
His next major project in Paris is the yet-unnamed, 140-seat restaurant at the decorative arts museum, slated to open at the end of this year. A terrace overlooking the Carrousel du Louvre gardens will be added in 2003. He's also developing a new beauty concept for Galeries Lafayette and designing the second location of Estnation, a Japanese specialty store founded by a group of former Barneys Japan employees.
For the latter project, movement is again an important theme. Biecher likened the floor plan to a pinball machine, encouraging rather unpredictable circulation patterns.
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