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Architect ERIC CARLSON the founder of CARBONDALE architecture practice has single–handedly redefined the role and function of luxury architecture with his projects for Louis Vuitton, to his designs of BMW flagships in London, New York and the most recently Longchamp store in London. Eric sits down with our Editor KATARINA DJORIC to discuss beginnings, favourite projects and the role of signature style.


Which architects or designers working today do you admire most?
Architecture is a complex profession that requires passion and creativity but also technical skills, managements and organizational abilities along with communication and social capacities.  I admire all the Architects that manage to orchestrate all these competencies and still build their ideas.

Read our exclusive interview from DESIGN SCENE Magazine March 2017 edition after the jump:


What originally made you want to go into architecture and design?
I’ve always loved to draw and ever since I can remember I’ve been cognizant about how places and spaces feel, but it’s hard to really know what Architecture is at the young age. When I began to design in University I knew this profession was for me.

Do you think you have a signature and recognizable style to your work?
“Style” is tricky business.  There is a fundamental choice when designing; should the project express the homeowner’s identity or the brand’s image or should it express Architect’s personal style?  At CARBONDALE we are specialist in “Luxury Architecture”.  This means that we customize each project to correspond to the unique characteristics of each of our Client.  We do repeat the same formal style for every project.  The goal for me is that people visiting one of my designs remarks how it captures the Client’s identity and way of life.  If my projects are recognizable as “Eric Carlson building or interiors”, then I have failed.  So, each work is different and each provides a unique challenge… and quite frankly, I think it would be a little boring work to apply the same “style” to each and every project.


Is there anything outside of Architecture that feeds into your work?
The short answer is everything.  I think “perceptiveness” is the common thread that weaves through all creative individuals. Of course for me the Client is a fundamental source of inspiration and their attributes and essence are catalysts to an inexhaustible spring of ideas.  For example, we are currently working with Dolce&Gabbana, the Italian fashion brand.  The influences from the renowned filmmakers Visconti and Fellini have been important in shaping the brand’s attitude and values.  And subsequently the films “The Leopard” and “La Dolce Vita” have been important sources of inspirations for us in the development of the architectural designs.

Which of your projects has given you the most satisfaction?
All of the projects we complete are hugely satisfying but one project which I will always remember is the Louis Vuitton store on the Champs Elysées.  I had just opened my Architecture office CARBONDALE in Paris and my first Client, Louis Vuitton simply requested that we design “the Best Luxury Store in the World” without limits.  This of course was a dream project.  First, we completely demolished the building’s interior structure to create a three-level spiral of ramping terraces that leads visitors on a 1,800 square meter enchanting brand voyage.  The retail travel experience culminates with an 18-meter high central atrium space of polished stainless steel and 2000 suspended rods to create a magical hovering dome sculpture.  Our finished design is composed of not only of quality materials and details but also of quality ideas.  The project is the 7th most visited tourist destination in Paris and subsequently became the inspiration for many future LV’s stores, as well as inspiration for projects such as jewelry, handbags and clothing collections.  Although I a very proud of the design I am also pleased that the project is a huge economic success.


Now that computer generated visualizations are so commonplace, is there still a place for physical model making or sketching designs by hand?
Certainly the advancement in computer generated images and even participatory videos have impacted the design process and give a better understanding to the Client’s as to what they can expect in the completed project.  However, sketches, models, computer generated 3-dimensional images, etc. are not architecture, they are tools that assist the Architect in generating and testing ideas as well as helping communicate the ideas to the Client.  I want to use all the tools available to achieve the best result.  When I’m sitting with my Clients at lunch discussing different thoughts and ideas, sketching on a napkin is the best tool for that moment.

What changes have you seen in the architecture in the recent years?
In the very recent past, retail projects where considered outside the realm of “Noble Architecture”.  I think that Architects were not able to satisfy the commercial demands AND maintain the architectural integrity.  I think we were leaders in bring Luxury Retail to the realm of “Noble Architecture” with our early projects for Louis Vuitton in the 1990’s that were both architecturally uncompromising and commercially successful.   More recently this has opened the door for a new category of project types for Architecture professional that had previously been off-limits.

What advice would you give to young Architects?
My first advice for a young Architect is “love it or leave it”.  Architecture is not a profession that can be enjoyable if you only kind-of like it.  However, if it is “love”, then I think it is like most professions…”your are what you do”, so it is important to persevering to find the place that give you the kind of experience you want.

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