Adriana Natcheva : : “a longing for the immensity of the sea, which gives expression and beauty to the architecture of Monaco”

unnamedShe is one of the most renowned contemporary architects on the shortlist of the “Women Architects of the Year”. After her studies at Cambridge University, Adriana established Groves Natcheva Architects in 2000 with Murray Groves


Right from their earliest projects, Groves and Natcheva took a multi-disciplinary approach by working on a variety of scales from small residential conversions to major new developments and office buildings. Although a building can be contemplated, used and even worn, it isn’t an artifact. Groves Natcheva take a different approach, creating architecture that mirrors the richness of the life it encloses.



LG: What’s your vision of contemporary architecture?


Architecture must have the richness of the life it encloses: no more and no less. Just as life is polymorphous – in the philosophical jargon sense – so must be architecture. Crucially, it belongs to someone other than its author. It must be part of the people who inhabit it, or else it becomes just a stage, turning the life of its occupants into a reality show without an audience.

I try to change the language of building to show that personalising a space need not be a luxury: it can and must be done for everyone. It is the client’s identity – not mine – that should be embodied in their building.


Architecture gives me the power to turn creative thought into substance, to make it tangible. I want my work to be enmeshed in the stream of life, to have its questions posed not by my imagination but by the realities of others. Each project is a collaboration with my client on a shared vision.




LG: What are the links between design and architecture?


There is a natural continuity between the architecture of a house, the design of its interior spaces and the design of objects within it: all three establish the distinctive character of a lived environment.


I see no distinction between the design of the exterior and the interior of a building: both deal with the same question: how we should live. The first relates to the face of a city, the communal image, and the latter to the personality of the client. Our job is to translate both in architectural form.


And this connection between exterior and interior does not stop with the design of the spaces. When I choose to place an object in a space, it is to intensify the particular atmosphere I am creating. A door handle, for example, is the handshake of a building. Its feel, if distinctive, naturally becomes part of the sensual knowing of a home. Carved from solid bronze, measured to the hand of the owner, the piece embodies the unique ethos of the house, without which it would not exist. The same door handle on another house would be like the same face on another body.


LG: Do you think female architects are different from the others?


Women bring a spark and a sensibility of a different kind which should be a source of confidence. It is an architectural vice to care more about the building you are creating than the subject that is meant to inhabit it. I think men are more prone to it than women. Architecture should reflect the full spectrum of life: its dramas, its darkness, the things current architectural talk of “light, space and air” does not easily capture.


LG: What do you think about the architecture of Monaco?


I found myself lost in Monaco during the night on a simple slip up – an unfriendly taxi driver leaving me at the wrong end of town – left me only one choice: to find my way back by intuition. It was on this long night walk that I discovered, and fell in love with, Monaco – this temple to the sea.


I walked the dancing curved roads shaped by car engines, I zigzagged up the vertiginous steps chiseled out of the dense city grid as if by Piranesi’s hand, I discovered with delight the secret lifts which navigate the city vertically with the freedom of imagination of Calvino’s Invisible Cities. From end to end, I saw an impressive array of architectural styles revealing centuries of history, but what stuck me most was one thing: I could feel the force that brings people together here: a longing for the immensity of the sea, which gives expression and beauty to the architecture of Monaco.


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