• Septembre Architects Studio visit in Paris
2021 Apr 18

Septembre Architects – Studio visit in Paris

Septembre consists of five partners from Sweden, Morocco, and Tunisia: Lina Lagerström, Memia Belkaid, Sami Aloulou, Emilia Jansson, and Dounia Hamdouch. These architects and urbanists all met in Paris (except Dounia) on the first day of class registration for the architecture school of La Vilette. During their studies, in the back of their minds, they all had the idea of working together in the future. After traveling abroad, they re-grouped in Paris and started working together.
We had the pleasure of speaking to one of the founding partners, Sami Aloulou. Sami offered a Tunisian perspective on the architectural identity and heritage of Tunisia, and also spoke more broadly on Septembre’s projects and approach to architecture.

Marouane Ben Belfort: Obviously you guys started Septembre in Paris because you all met and studied there. Had there ever been another country that you had in mind to live and work in?
Sami Aloulou: It’s hard to tell. As a Tunisian I thought about going back and starting a practice there. But we never planned to start an office. It just happened. That’s why we never thought of another city or country. We started our practice with a competition, an interior design project with the task of designing some apartments. So, it was really organic and not planned.
Our first project was a residential building in Paris, Belleville. A young contractor from Tunisia heard about us and wanted to work with us. This project came at an early stage of our practice.

Have you also worked on urban planning projects? I mean, that is your background.
That is really challenging. We have been trying to reach that scale for a long time. In the past I worked for an office which focused more on urban design. I enjoyed that a lot, which is why Memia and I try to get those kinds of projects. It’s really hard. We have taken part in competitions but have never won one. We have submitted our work to Portuguese, Swedish, and Norwegian competitions.
It’s hard for young offices working on urban design, especially when it comes to bigger projects. Usually the bigger offices receive the projects. We had been invited to a smaller competition, for a public space in front of a known Roman Basilica in the city Clermont Ferrand called Notre Dame du Port. If we can present more of these smaller references we can apply hopefully for bigger competitions in the future.

What I find interesting is how your office is staffed. You guys have different backgrounds, such as urbanism and interior design, meaning that you can work on different scales.
Totally. It’s natural for us to think not only in different scales but also in different ways. It’s a fluid process. During the brainstorming stage everyone has his or her ideas and detailed thoughts. If we design the interior, we also think about the outside, and the other way round. It’s in our DNA.

I enjoy the idea of zooming in and out during the design process. I work in a classical architectural office, as well, but we do mostly residential houses, so the scale is always similar. I enjoy being challenged by different scales.
In Paris there are many offices that are doing basic and classic architecture, as well. They are focused on just one thing. We are from a generation that experienced the crisis in 2008 and we had to adapt to that specific context. We have to look at other things, as well, in order to find jobs and projects.

Find the whole article inside Vol.3 of This Orient “The Greater Middle East”. Find the issue here in our store.