Charles Zana is a passionate architect who combines art and technique in every one of his projects. From Paris to London, via Gstaad, Tel Aviv, and Monaco, Zana’s style and expertise are showcased in some of the world’s most beautiful public and private interiors.
“The chemistry between the architect and the client is the heart and soul of a good project.”
After studying Fine Arts in Paris, Charles Zana a certified architect, came to interior design through a series of influential meetings. In 1990, after his return from New York, where he spent nearly five years working in various architectural studios, Zana founded his own agency. He divides his time between his residential projects, stores, and scenography, his Paris office (where he works with his team and the interior designer Richard Massol), and his collection of art and design.
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Zana designs the best possible spaces for his clients by establishing systems of habitation that they can easily appropriate. His interiors are structured around people, taking every aspect of their lives into account, and he never imposes a style. Above all, he listens to, understands, and engages in a dialogue with his clients with whom he maintains friendly relations. He is interested in their habits so that he can make places that are dedicated to their needs. At the end of each project, the architect withdraws and leaves life to settle down and do the rest.
Every interior designer has his favorite project and for Zana it is the story of a Modernist house in Switzerland, on which he is working right now. “At the beginning, nobody wanted to buy it, even the realty developer said the only interesting element of the property was the site, the grounds. But finally someone fell in love with the brutalist architectural style of the house and we are now renovating it completely”.
Working in a team is essential for Zana, fifteen architects, interior architects, and designers work with him on his projects ranging from private houses and apartments to company head offices, shops, renovations, and exhibition scenographys. The team is tightly knit through its communal culture of quality and work methods enabling them to take a project from inception to completion with great fluidity.
“I enjoy working with artists too, combining their perception of space and unique approach to a project. And a project cannot be achieved without surrounding us with high-caliber artisans, experienced lighting designers, the best landscapers, according to the demands of the project.”
Travelling is very important to Zana as well so that he can increase his scope of the trends and stay up-to-date. He pays close attention to domains other than design, like fashion shows or dance. Artistically, he finds everything related to the body and body language very interesting. He attends design and art fairs and auction houses too, which develop more and more thematic sales. He especially enjoys following Piasa’s auction sales for their selections in design. “I think keeping up to date on art trends is a field not to be avoided, because it is an accurate reflection of the movements. To understand the new trends, I need to draw away from design and architecture”.
An architect well versed in construction, seeking comfort, fluid circulations, details, harmony, symmetry, and discrete technology best describes Zana, but he also tries to assimilate, when necessary, the history of places, to embrace and revisit, magnify or contort it. “I try to guide my clients, who are often art collectors like me, towards creators I appreciate and collect, like Andrea Branzi, Ettore Sottsass, Michele de Lucchi, Enzo Mari or Alessandro Mendini.”
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“Almost a majority of the pieces are drawn at the studio especially for each project to create some unity. But I don’t think there is a magic formula which could work for every project. I think what is needed is to choose a particular line or approach before starting a project considering the place. A project in New York will be different from a project in Marrakech or London. And mixing old and new, vintage and contemporary could be a good tip. I also try to work with artists, or designers to have a different vision, and a “curated” interior and to write a new and different story each time.”
It is always very interesting to know where designers find their inspiration. In the case of Zana he takes much of his inspiration from architecture, Carlo Scarpa is definitely a model for him, a reference; and Jean Michel Frank inspires him in furniture. In art in general, the photographer Louise Lawler inspires him in the way she photographs other people’s art in the context in which it is viewed, and all the processes surrounding its creation. The approaches of Adel Abdessemed in his work and Tino Sehgal in his performances combining art and dance are also very intriguing to Zana.