After studying architecture at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Charles Zana worked in New York for two years at various studios, before returning to Paris to work with Bernard Fric at Asymétrie, and eventually setting up his own agency in 1990: Charles Zana Architecture. Since then, he has worked on a range of projects, delivering his artistic vision to interiors and architecture all around the world.
With the approach of two new exciting hotel launches in the South of France, MiND had the opportunity to speak to Charles Zana about his experience.
How would you describe your style?
I am passionate about art and design and my architectural style is inspired by those who inspire me personally! Since discovering the great masters of Italian design, from Andrea Branzi to Ettore Sottsass, without forgetting Carlo Scarpa, these figures have fuelled my style and guided my creative spirit! I was also very inspired by Jean-Michel Frank and Pierre Chareau. I am in fact very inspired by classical epic French figures, the 1990s… and that is also when I discovered Italian design.
Where do you take inspiration from?
I have been passionate about art and design from a young age. I also draw inspiration from travels, views, places, my family, sensations, and different situations such as a show, or a movie.
"My inspiration is contextual."
Can you explain your design process?
For each project, I need to study the history of a place and adapt my creation. I work like a curator of an exhibition fitting pieces together step by step. I first deal with the layout and the volumes. I also work with lots of visuals, the first sketches and mood boards.
You have recently designed two new luxury hotels in Provence and St Tropez. What led you to approach these projects?
I have a good relationship with Maison Pariente who are behind the two hotels. I was very happy to work in the South of France, a region which I appreciate and where I have plenty of memories. I have worked on several private projects in the region too.
What were your visions for these hotels and how did they differ?
I had to take into account the different contexts of the hotels. The hotel Crillon Le Brave in Provence is at the foot of the Mont Ventoux and is like a little hamlet, which I wanted to preserve. It is a stunning five-star hideout for those looking to switch off from the urban frenzy and reconnect with their deeper truth in an exquisitely authentic natural setting.
The Hotel Lou Pinet is in St Tropez and reflects the lively, fun atmosphere of the port. Lou Pinet is dedicated to connoisseurs of discretion, to those in love with the original Saint-Tropez spirit, to those who refuse to choose between dizzying thrills and absolute peace and to all those who want both – when and only when they desire.
What was the most challenging aspect you faced when designing the hotels?
Giving spirit to both hotels. I had to modernise them but still preserve their spirit at the same time.
The hotels draw on the local heritage and countryside. Is it important to you to create harmony with the surroundings?
At Crillon le Brave, the view from the panoramic terrace is breathtaking. Against a backdrop of beautiful landscapes sits a wonderful labyrinth. The hotel literally merges with its surroundings. Jean Mus carefully curated the Hotel Lou Pinet’s outdoor areas to restore poetic authenticity and sensuality with distinctive species of flora and fauna from Provençal nature. Standout features of the immense lush garden include a miniature lavender field, herb garden and impressive stone pines. It is always crucial for me to take into account the surroundings of a place and to create harmony and synergies between my creation and the context.
What does the future hold for Charles Zana Architecture?
I have several exciting projects coming up in the fall in the USA. In New York, I am working with the chef Yann Nury who has a new restaurant project coming up. In September, I will launch a collection of vases and lights, most probably during Paris Design Week. I will also collaborate with Diurne gallery and create a collection of carpets. In October, during FIAC, I will curate an exhibition, Utopia focusing on Italian Design from the 1970s, at the Tornabuoni Gallery in Paris. I have also worked on the project of Hotel Capucines in Paris and the Goyard “comptoir” in Dallas, USA.
What advice you would give to aspiring architects?
Seek inspiration in everything you are passionate about!
MiND wishes Charles the best with the upcoming hotel launches and all of his future projects!