On the last floor at 40 Rue Violet in Paris’ 15th arrondissement, it is currently possible to visit the exhibition “La Luce”, dedicated to lamps created by Le Corbusier and Charlotte Perriand, organised in collaboration with the Italian publisher Nemo, the Le Corbusier Foundation, Archives Charlotte Perriand and Artcurial.
In the project completed by Jean Nouvel at the end of 2017, the attic floor space of the RBC Paris multi-brand showroom is approximately 170 square metres of square, open-plan “blank canvass”, white and inundated with natural light, dominated by a large ‘structured’ glass skylight. The resolute square shape is enhanced by the reticulated white painted metal structure framing the window in the roof, echoed in different proportions by a glass opening carved out from the floor which absorbs and feeds light through to both the ground and lower ground floors, thus establishing visual continuity. To call it a showroom is undoubtedly reductive.
Franck Argentin, president and general manager of RBC Group, explains: “I love creating places and stories. I asked Jean Nouvel if he wanted to recreate the space which Antonio Citterio imagined for Vitra, thirty years ago”. He accepted, as he did back in 2012 for the Montpelier site, a veritable design centre of 2000 square metres, containing furnishing collections while also delighting design enthusiasts with its bookshop with boutique and the RBD Kitchen restaurant with views of Parc Charpak and Port Marianne’s Miroir d’eau. RBC Paris opened in January and marks 30 years of business for a family-run and independent company with 60 collaborators, a 22 million Euro turnover in 2017, 20% of which abroad, operating across a total of 7 sites in France, each conceived by French architects. Philippe Starck in 1987 for the first ever store in Nîmes, Christophe Pillet in 2001 for RBC Avignone, C+D Architecture in 2006 for Gallargues, Jakob + Macfarlane in 2010 in the new Confluence neighbourhood, Lyon, Jean Nouvel in 2012 for Montpellier, Jean Marie Massaud in 2016 for Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, and last but not least, Paris, inaugurated on 2nd January 2018.
In addition to both symmetrical showcases set in the entrance façade, a 20 metre corridor becomes a ‘narrative surface’, where interactive screens and iconic pieces recount the history of RBC and its partners, before leading visitors onto exhibition spaces. In horizontal terms, the floor plan of all three of the building’s floors remains open and free, to facilitate the evolution of exhibition spaces while also enabling the circulation of natural light. In vertical terms, floors are connected by means of full view two-flight staircases, complete with light grill parapets, entirely made from white painted metal. A (non)colour, generously used on walls and ceilings, matched with light grey resin flooring, creating the perfect backdrop for enhancing furnishing sets which alternate between two different spatial themes: for living and collective use.
260 square metres are dedicated to home proposals on the ground floor, with an array of furnishing collections and systems by Molteni, Dada, Knoll, Vitra, MDF Italia, Agape, along with lamps by Nemo Italia, Flos and Artemide. The vast open space enables the alternation of day and night living spaces, as well as set changes according to different needs. The lower ground floor offers 160 square metres dedicated to collective use and office projects, with collections by UNIFOR, Vitra, Nemo, Fantoni, Inclass, Enea and Pedrali. There is also a material library available for project developers and designers. Together with the architect, Franck Argentin had a vision for this new Paris site as a ‘place of experiences’ for professionals and – why not – amateurs, and a meeting place for national and international trend setters, dedicated to collections by authoritative European brands, contemporary design as well as great 20th century masters.
Photo: © Flore Chenaux