Architects generate so much creative output at the genesis of a project – studies, sketches and schema – without the intention of presenting it to the public. Conversely, there are any number of ways to acquire old architectural renderings depicting classical façades, or else modern buildings, yet no single outlet that sources the work of practicing architects and presents it as art.
Enter Desplans, a budding gallery concept dually based in Paris and Stockholm, which prints and frames architectural drawings as signed, limited editions. Conceived by Albane Cartier-Bresson, Guillaume Dubois and Jérôme Malpel, Desplans brings value and visibility to high-quality imagery that is often shelved away, whether or not a project is realised. So far, the works represent a range of techniques: collage, hand sketches, axonometric drawings and photomontages of maquettes. Each is accompanied by a short description for context, while bios of the featured architects ensure a better appreciation of their idiosyncratic style or point of view.
For all the variety, however, Desplans is already asserting a general aesthetic: contemporary and minimalist, yet noticeably thoughtful. The collages – whether a proposal for a Guggenheim museum in Helsinki by Laurent de Carnière, or a hypothetical rooftop concert hall in Brooklyn by Elvire Amoura – often resemble urban watercolours. Whereas an imaginary map of Stockholm by Iris Lacoudre appears whimsically illustrated, an image of a profile of a chair in steel and leather suggests an inanimate portrait.
‘It’s very important for us to be telling a story each time,’ Cartier-Bresson tells Wallpaper*. ‘It should be aesthetic and artistic; as in, is it something that pleases us and is of quality?’
Framing options – 100 per cent natural oak, brushed black aluminium, contre-collage aluminium-mounted, and suspended between acrylic sheets – reflect this streamlined sensibility.
Cartier-Bresson, whose great-uncle was the esteemed photographer, oversees the Paris side with Dubois and Malpel – both architects – advancing the concept from Stockholm. Together, they are drawing from their network of architects, in addition to contacting studios that they consider a good fit. Work from Fala Atelier in Portugal will be added in September. Others, meanwhile, are approaching them.
The site launched in April with an exhibition at a Marais gallery in June. On the immediate horizon are permanent by-appointment spaces in both cities in addition to pop-up events in association with local firms (Gramme in Paris have already confirmed participation).
In the meantime, Cartier-Bresson points out that client profiles indicate a breadth of backgrounds, not just those who work in the field. It’s certainly easy to envision the works accenting walls of restaurants, hotel rooms, offices or, of course, a home – especially now that photo prints have become commonplace and art increasingly expensive. ‘We realise there is an interest,’ she says, almost downplaying the potential. But if one wonders how no one had arrived at the idea until now, the founders happened to seize on a particular moment, a shift within the industry back to more artistically-inclined work and away from all things digital. Says Cartier-Bresson, ‘There’s been a return to designing differently.’