Architects without borders

Architecture firm Fabienne Bulle architecte & associés stands out for its work on exceptional projects in France and further afield. Most recently it won a national competition to design the French embassy in Libreville, Gabon. Due to be finished in 2017, the project will consist of an eco-friendly building made using local materials such as doussie, a golden brown or light red wood found in West Africa.

TEXT: LIDIJA LIEGIS | PHOTOS: FABIENNE BULLE ARCHITECTE & ASSOCIÉS

The firm is conscious that over 70 per cent of Gabon’s terrain is covered by forest and it ensures that wood logging is done in a responsible and sustainable way. “When we won the competition, it was very important to the French foreign ministry that it would be one of the first embassies built in an ecological way,” says founding partner Fabienne Bulle.

The embassy is designed so that it will be “symbolic o f a philosophy which is sober, safe and also not too grand – it has to combine all of these qualities,” notes Fabienne Bulle, to reflect the French presence in an emerging economy. The building must be representative of both France and Gabon, whilst melding the two cultures. This is not the firm’s first foray into international projects; it previously entered a competition to design the French embassy in Nairobi, Kenya.

Fabienne Bulle qualified as an architect in 1977, and has been teaching at the prestigious Paris-based Ecole Spéciale d’Architecture since 1982. She founded the firm in 1995, and says that through her work as a university professor and architect she has learned “a distinct ability to truly listen to clients’ needs”. What sets the practice apart from others is the founding partner’s personal involvement in every single project. For Fabienne Bulle, the most challenging aspect of her work is maintaining momentum throughout a project. “Passion is necessary to succeed, but it’s not enough to keep you going: you need ability and real savoir-faire.”

Other projects which Fabienne Bulle is particularly proud of include a student house for the University of Versailles Saint Quentin-en-Yvelines in Guyancourt, northe rn France. Its futuristic façade is covered in large spikes in the shape of nails. Another highlight was designing the Clichysous-Bois-Montfermeil police headquarters, which resembles a beautiful, minimalist sculpture. The firm upholds its sterling reputation thanks to standout designs made with first-rate natural materials.