PARIS – Named for its proximity to a square in the French capital’s 13th arrondissement, which honours the tragic 12th-century romance of Héloïse and Abélard, Stéphane Malka’s design for a modular workspace was intended as an entirely blank canvas. Occupants at La Nouvelle Héloïse – currently used primarily by a digital-training company – simply need to add furniture to activate its adaptable contours. Modularity comes in the form of Malka’s patented mur mobile or ‘movable wall’ system: MuMo. His adjustable floor-to-ceiling walls permit diverse configurations, ranging from one open room suitable as a showroom, for instance, to smaller spaces for hosting meetings and training sessions.
Like the doomed lovers of long ago, walls unite and separate, barely touching as they rotate three-dimensionally. Black arcs on the floor and ceiling articulate the axes of each movable element, acting as a graphic user manual. The monochromatic palette recalls the bold geometries of 1960s pop culture, lending a sense of déjà vu to the scheme’s advanced technology.
Malka, who enjoys subverting ideas of what is known, describes the resulting juxtaposition as a ‘familiar future’. While developing the project, he played with visual orientation, allowing the black and white patterned surfaces to amplify the optical illusion afforded by the grid of shifting components and curved forms. ‘I wanted to create a type of labyrinth in which people aren’t sure where they’ve come from.’
Photos Laurent Clement
This article debuted in Frame #112 alongside many other inspirational interviews and projects. Find your copy in the online Frame store.
More great office designs feature in Frame's The Other Office 2, and there is lots of workspace food-for-thought in the forthcoming must-read book Spaces for Innovation.