The Frenchman has loved buildings since childhood – the taller, the better. Which is why he lives in Paris’s skyscraper district and is intrigued by Monaco: He has now published the first ever Architectural Guide on the city-state.
Text: Björn Rosen
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The setting was as elegant as one would expect from a dignified French institution. In late September 2020, the Académie d’Architecture – founded in 1841, though its roots go back to pre-revolutionary France – presented its annual awards. The ceremony took place in the institution’s rooms next to the Place des Vosges, the oldest of the five ‘royal squares’ of Paris, situated in the heart of the French capital. The award winners included DOM publishers-author Jean-Philippe Hugron, who was honoured for his publications. The 38-year-old critic writes for prestigious French magazines such as Architecture d’aujourd’hui and Exé as well as the German Baumeister.
Hugron lives ten kilometres west of the Place des Vosges – and architecturally in a completely different world. He lives in La Défense, a high-rise district, built from the 1960s onwards, but not because his childhood home is very close by, but because he is fascinated by towers, above all skyscrapers. He has been spending his summer holidays near Monaco for ten years, where he can enjoy views of the principality’s skyline. His French-language architectural guide on the city-state has being published recently by DOM. ‘Monaco is both a laboratory and phantasm,’ says Hugron. Because space is so limited, land is reclaimed from the sea; and the buildings aren’t only tall, they also reach several storeys underground. ‘The Monégasques have the financial means for interesting projects, which is why architects like to work there. They can finally do what they want,’ Hugron says. This sometimes leads to stylistic aberrations, which Hugron addresses with a touch of humour in his texts. The architectural guide is the very first of its kind to explore Monaco, which perhaps has something to do with the fact that the city-state – known as a gambling den and a tax haven – has a questionanble reputation in France. ‘Monaco represents money, which, for the French, is suspect.’
As a child, Jean-Philippe Hugron was more interested in buildings than anything else. ‘I never painted animals, nor people. It was always buildings.’ However, he abandoned the idea of becoming an architect after a few weeks at university, choosing to study geography and architectural history instead. ‘Architects need an intellectual side and a practical side. And I was lacking in the latter department. Managing people, organising building sites – I can’t do such things.’ It’s no coincidence that Hugron already published his Architectural Guide Paris with DOM in 2017. The Frenchman is fluent in German and knows the country on the far side of the Rhine just as well as his home country. Surprisingly, Frankfurt is not particularly high up on his list of favourite German cities, in spite its tall skyline. In fact, his most beloved city is rather shorter in stature: Potsdam.