Private visit to Camondo School, temple of interior architecture

Last July, Elon Musk claimed that the “X” logo that follows Twitter was a symbol of “Lminimalist art deco“. A bold statement, but one that proves that the concept of art deco is very much alive today, more than a hundred years after its birth in Paris. In 2024, “Art Deco” is not just a concept or a style. It is an institution. At the top is the “Decorative Arts” association, created in Paris in 1865. At the base, the five pillars that depend on it: the Museum of Decorative Arts, the Rivoli Library, the Carrousel Workshops, the Nissim Museum in Camondo and finally the Camondo School, located in 2024 in sixth place in Le Figaro’s ranking of design schools. The school was founded in 1944 and is celebrating its 80th anniversary. In the last five years, Camondo graduates have won at least 19 prizes or honors (winners of French Design, Grand Prix de la Création de la Ville de Paris, etc.). Almost half of its former students work in design (44%) and its Interior Designer Diploma benefits from an official ‘Master’ level and RNCP Level 7 certification, boasting that it trained Philippe Starck, even though he stayed for six months.

School founded in 1944

On the wide Boulevard Raspail, opposite the Cartier Foundation, the school applies its contemporary architecture: a large vertical parallelogram with glass walls flanked by external staircases. A school known for its training in interior architecture, lies the proverbial cobbler. Director Michèle Dardová, who receives us in her office, whose bay windows offer a bird’s-eye view of the green areas of Montparnasse, explains: “We applied the rules of interior architecture to ourselves, for example by focusing on the modularity of the uppers. By moving the partitions, it is therefore possible to work either in small groups or to organize plenary work sessions.

3D printers, laser machines

The visit begins at the FabLab,” technical workshop of the art school”, indicates Baptiste Leroux, responsible for this space. It is used to produce computer designed parts that will be shaped on our machines: 3D printers and 2D laser cutters. “Courses focus on interior architecture, object design, environmental design, and within interior architecture we will study atmosphere, lights, sound, volumes, use, etc. explains Paul Marchesseau, professor of interior architecture. Among the uses, for example, we can study the reception of a museum, a town hall or a cinema… The aim of the courses is to enable students to understand production processes and work with different crafts such as decorative painting, goldsmithing, carpentry, locksmithing and even carpentry.

What I like about Camonda is that you can take classes and go to Art Deco museums for free

Monie, a Korean student

The color course takes place on one of the many modular platforms. “This subject is taught in six lessons of four hours each, explains Léo Schlumberger, professor. Students in particular, they will learn the vocabulary of colors: how to talk about it, how to use its influence in the profession, for example for scenography. Students, seated around a large rectangular table, bring out bright colors on their white sheets. “What I like about Camonda is that you can take classes and go to decorative arts museums for free,” says Monie, a Korean student. The atmosphere is not strict, it’s even very free and I like that we can really experiment with our own style.”

Next, we get to the woodworking workshop. The visual shock is brutal and redemptive. Here we are far from the clean and even abstract lines that the term interior architecture evokes. Make room for workbenches, sawdust, circular saws and tools securely hung on the wall. It is in this workshop that students will be able to shape material with their own hands, such as a redesigned Italian-style coffee machine or a miniature chair made of tubes. Finally, the school does not hesitate to go far from Boulevard Raspail: “In 2023 we participated in Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven, Netherlands, as well as WantedDesign in New York and this year we will participate in Copenhagen Design Week in Denmark.”, Michèle Dard announces as she returns to her office. Design is a global art.

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