Au Revoir, Royal Monceau
An intervention by Arne Quinze bade farewell to an old Paris hotel—and welcomed its upcoming transformation by Philippe Starck
Judy Fayard -- Interior Design, 8/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
Arne Quinze's installation for the hotel Royal Monceau in Paris was a spectacular one-night stand. To kick off a complete revamp by Philippe Starck, new owner Alexandre Allard threw a demolition party. Guests were invited to put on hard hats and whack away at the art deco hotel's tired interior. Conceived specifically for the occasion was Rebirth, Quinze's immense, wandering structure of pine slats and video screens. It infiltrated the entire building like an alien life form, arching over the lobby, piercing walls, snaking through corridors and up stairwells.
Studio Arne Quinze had perfected the construction technique on previous installations, all built with a low grade of Scandinavian red pine. Though the wood is too soft for most commercial uses, it offers an ideal roughness for artistic purposes. The Royal Monceau project required 50,000 feet of slats, a total of 17 tons. At Quinze's headquarters in Belgium, the wood was treated with a fire retardant and painted fluorescent orange to appear "as fiery, as brutal, as possible," senior project manager Fréderic Van Dooren says. "It's a dark building, and the sculpture had to glow." The wood was then trucked to the site, where the seven-man crew set to work with nail guns. Once a base was built, the structure rose slat by slat.
Quinze's original design accounted for only about half the final result: The sculpture advanced in unexpected ways, becoming stronger and more stable as it took on three dimensions. There was no formula for placing one slat against another—it was simply a matter of developing the knack. After four days, every slat was used. Once the protruding nails and edges were trimmed, Van Dooren made a final check for stability, electricity, and lighting. "We let it grow as far as possible," he says. "But it's never really 'finished.'"
When the demolition party was over, the dismantling process took three additional days. The client, as usual, was given a commemorative video and package of wood. The rest of the slats returned to Belgium for nail removal. They're now ready to be used again in a new project.