Sophie Berthelier worked at architect Jean Nouvel’s firm before founding with her associate Benoît Tribouillet the SBBT organisation in Paris and Chartres. These days she has moved away from contextual architecture to work on a more sensitive form of architecture with in-depth working on materials. She breaks away from the architectural gesture as it’s the material and the constructed whole that matters.

A FEMICITY program.

Sophie Berthelier
SBBT Architecture

sbbt-architecture.com

Technical sheet of this architecture video clip
Journalist : Emma C. Dessouroux
Cameramen : Didier Minne, Geoffroy Minne / Kinoflight

Editing : Emma C. Dessouroux / Cristina Dias
Direction : Emma C. Dessouroux
Production : Les Délires Productions

Translation : Strakermedia – Comtrans
Rereading : Serge Ryckoort / Emelire
Subtitles : Les Délires Productions

English Subtitles

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My name is Sophie Berthelier.

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With my associate, Benoît Tribouillet,
I founded

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the architectural practice,
SBBT Architecture,

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and we have two branches:
one in Paris and one in Chartres.

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At the end of my studies…

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I had the ambition to work
in an architectural practice

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that I really liked.

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I had a shortlist
of two or three architects, and in the end

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I got to work with Jean Nouvel.

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I’d planned to stay only a few months,
but I stayed for eight years.

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There, I really learned the profession,
the building sites,

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and above all,
what it means to be tenacious,

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and have endurance.

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-I like that photograph.
-That photograph?

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-That one.
-Yes.

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-Your friend told me that.
-Yes.

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Here we are, just coming into…

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the dining room.

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Everything interests me,
all work sectors interest me,

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right from the moment
that we have to develop

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a relationship between the property
and the building going to be built,

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and the urban space and its inhabitants.

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I define my architecture today

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as a sensory kind of architecture.

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In all the research I have done
on materials and matter,

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I want people to sense things
with more than just their eyes.

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I think we’ve moved on
from the contextual angle

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which defined Jean Nouvel,

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in my opinion, to an architecture
which I would define as sensory.

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I shrink away
from architectural movements,

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because for me, it’s the material
and construction as a whole that counts,

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and from the tiniest detail
to the bigger picture,

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everything must be thought through.

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In 2008, when we did
the Tours media centre,

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I made plaques of polymethyl methacrylate,

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into which I put bronze strips,

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somewhat in the style
of Armand or Kuramata.

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In order give some character
and depth to the project,

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I decided to put that skeleton,

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or shell rather, in front,

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both to shelter the acoustics
and to protect it from shocks.

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And I noticed a mother

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out walking with her child,
who touched the facade

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all the way along with her hand,

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and I thought, on some level,
I’d succeeded.

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I’d achieved the idea
that I wanted to transmit some sensuality.

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I don’t really like that word

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because it’s a bit hackneyed
among my peers sometimes,

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so then, that sensitivity,
that appeal to the senses.

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The materials I use are always altered

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according to the context of the site
and the programme,

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and what I want to give or offer
to the inhabitants.

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I don’t believe in building
everything in wood.

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That’s taking environmentalism too far.

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People say you’re ecological
when you build with wood,

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but I don’t agree at all.

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I think we should use all the materials

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available to us,

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those that aren’t too expensive,
and in fact, those which reveal

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what we want to pass on to others,

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whether it’s a sun shade,
or a raw appearance.

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I think we can use earth, wood,

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polymethyl methacrylate, bronze strips,

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salvaged materials…

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I love the idea of salvaging,
like I did in 2008,

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going to the rubbish dumps,
finding materials

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that are useful but not expensive.

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I enjoy that process, too,

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when it comes to adding details
to the buildings we construct.

French Subtitles

1
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Je m’appelle Sophie Berthelier.

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J’ai fondé avec mon associé
Benoît Tribouillet la…

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l’agence d’architecture SBBT Architecture.

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Et nous avons deux agences :
une à Paris et une à Chartres.

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À la fin de mes études, je…

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j’avais une envie, c’était de travailler
dans une agence d’architecture

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que j’aimais bien,

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et j’avais sélectionné deux
ou trois architectes, et en fait…

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j’ai réussi à travailler chez Jean Nouvel.

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Et donc, je pensais y rester
que quelques mois

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et je suis restée huit ans.

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Et donc là, j’ai vraiment appris
le métier, les chantiers,

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et puis, j’ai appris surtout
ce que c’était que la ténacité

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et la résistance.

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  • J’aime bien, ce photographe, là-bas.
  • Ce photographe ?

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  • Ce photographe.
  • Ouais.

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  • C’est ce que m’a dit votre ami.
  • Ouais.

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Voilà, donc on va rentrer dans le…

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dans la salle à manger.

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Tout m’intéresse,
tous les secteurs d’activité m’intéressent

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à partir du moment où on doit définir

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une relation entre l’immeuble
et le bâtiment qu’on va construire,

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et puis l’espace urbain et les habitants.

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Je définis mon architecture aujourd’hui

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comme étant une architecture sensitive.

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Par toute la recherche que j’ai faite
sur les matériaux, sur la matière,

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j’ai envie que les gens
puissent ressentir les choses

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de manière différente qu’avec la vision.

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On est passé, à mon avis,
du côté contextuel

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que définissait Jean Nouvel,

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à, pour moi, de l’architecture
que je décrirais comme sensitive.

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Je me détache du geste architectural

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parce que pour moi, c’est la matière
et l’ensemble construit qui comptent.

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Et du moindre détail à l’espace global,

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tout doit être vraiment pensé.

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Quand on a fait
la médiathèque de Tours en 2008,

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j’avais créé des plaques
en polyméthacrylate de méthyle

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dans lesquelles je venais insérer
des copeaux de bronze,

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un peu à la manière d’Armand
ou de Kuramata.

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Pour donner du caractère
et donner de l’ampleur à ce projet,

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j’avais décidé de mettre,
en fait, cette carcasse,

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enfin, cette carapace, on va dire, devant,

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à la fois pour protéger de l’acoustique,
mais aussi pour protéger des chocs,

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et j’ai vu qu’il y avait
une mère de famille

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qui se promenait avec son enfant
et qui a touché la façade

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d’un bout à l’autre avec la main,

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et je me suis dit que quelque part,
j’avais réussi.

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J’avais réussi cette idée
que je voulais laisser passer…

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de sensualité, alors j’aime pas trop
le mot sensualité

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parce qu’il est un peu galvaudé
par mes confrères parfois,

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mais donc, cette sensitivité,
cette référence aux sens.

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Les matériaux que j’emploie
sont toujours travaillés

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en fonction du contexte, justement,
du site et du programme,

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et de l’envie de ce que je vais vouloir
donner, offrir aux habitants.

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Je ne suis pas en accord
avec le fait de tout construire en bois.

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C’est aller trop loin
dans l’esprit écologique.

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On dit aujourd’hui, on est écologique
parce qu’on construit en bois.

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Je ne suis pas du tout d’accord avec ça.

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Je pense qu’il faut utiliser
tous les matériaux

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qui sont à notre portée,

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qui ne sont pas très chers
et qui révèlent en fait

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ce qu’on a envie de donner aux autres.

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Soit une protection solaire,
soit un aspect brut…

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Pour moi, on peut aussi bien
utiliser la terre, le bois,

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le polyméthacrylate,
les copeaux de bronze,

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de la récupération…

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J’aime beaucoup l’idée de la récupération,
ce que je faisais en 2008,

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d’aller dans les déchetteries,
d’aller trouver des matériaux

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qui étaient nobles mais très peu chers.

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Et ça, j’aime aussi avoir
cette démarche-là,

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quand on arrive à traiter le détail
des bâtiments que l’on conçoit.