His name is Arnaud Guirao, and he is the head of the Moon Safari agency. From the anecdote behind the name of his agency to his vision of architecture in a post-COVID world, he answers all our questions!
Arnaud: Hello OOTI!
Before getting to the heart of the matter, can you tell us a bit more about yourself?
Arnaud: I am co-founder of the Moon Safari agency, created in 2002. Originally based in Bordeaux and Biarritz, we are now around fifty employees spread over 4 sites: Bordeaux, Biarritz, Lyon and Paris.
Why Moon Safari?
Arnaud: In the beginning, because there is always one, the agency was called “Air”. Electronic music lovers will find a reference to the eponymous group, and they will be right!
You called the agency "Air" in homage to the emblematic French group of the French Touch?
Arnaud: Exactly ! When we started, the albums of this group accompanied our work evenings, when we had to urgently complete our projects.
The famous carts, dear to architects… Why did you change?
Arnaud: With the arrival of new partners, we had to create a new page in history. This new page, we did not go to look for it very far …
The name of a track from the group “Air”, I imagine…
Arnaud: Almost! Moon Safari is the name of “Air's” debut album. The loop was complete!
Obligatory passage in current times: how did your confinement go?
Arnaud: I have one light tendency to hyperactivity. Which is far from being a quality in a period of confinement! – Laughs –
However, hyperactive or not, you have no choice but to confine yourself to government directives. We have therefore hastily organized remote work so that all employees can be operational from home.
Our employees confined to their homes and the premises empty, I took the opportunity to go to the office daily. On the one hand because a presence on site was essential to maintaining the activity, on the other hand it was necessary to devote a lot of time to the Human Resources component. When you have 50 collaborators, if you spend 10 minutes with each one, that's your already full 8-hour work day without having even started managing the agency's projects!
And teleworking in an agency, after several months, rather yes or rather no?
Arnaud: Actually, it was more about working from home than working from home.
What is the shade?
Arnaud: She is subtle, I agree! I tend to think that telecommuting implies a contribution from the company to the costs inherent in working from home or even a dedicated space in the accommodation. In the context of COVID, we had to act quickly. Dismantling of the computer towers and express moving made it possible to meet the deadlines.
Technically, it was therefore more work at home than teleworking. But it's all just a matter of nuances.
Telework or work at home, is it intended to settle more durably in Moon Safari work habits?
Arnaud: Let's face it, for an architecture agency, working remotely presents many pitfalls. I won't tell anyone anything by saying that construction sites remain construction sites, and that the bulk of our activity takes place where we build. In this sense, the face-to-face remains a fundamental prerequisite.
However, the profession of architect is not exercised only on building sites. But here again, limitations inherent in the profession pose obstacles: group work on layers or sketches, volume of 3D files which makes sharing difficult, etc.
However, the architect's missions remain which can very well be managed remotely.
" Let's face it, for an architecture firm, working remotely presents many pitfalls. »
So remote work, yes, but sparingly...
Arnaud: The COVID legacy invites people to avoid unnecessary travel for meetings that can be held remotely.
You address the COVID legacy, let's talk about it. Do you think it will change your work as an architect?
Arnaud: Quite honestly, no, I don't think so. It will always be necessary that we meet, that we work in groups. The project will always remain the project with its multidisciplinary approach.
I don't think we should expect a revolution on that side.
And in the way of designing?
Arnaud: At this level, yes the cards will be reshuffled and we are already seeing it. Certain types of buildings, in particular those intended to receive the public, will have to be apprehended differently.
I want proof that today all projects of this type are stopped.
Pump still not primed?
Arnaud: Several reasons explain this delicate recovery, but one of the first is the need to completely rethink the programs. Architecture is a living material, in perpetual evolution and it is essential to draw the conclusions from what we have just experienced in order to design buildings that are more resilient to health crises.
"Architecture is a living matter, in perpetual evolution and it is essential to draw conclusions from what we have just experienced..."
At a time when digital has been an undeniable resource, I imagine that dematerialized solutions have been a great help?
Arnaud: Behind dematerialized solutions, do you hear “OOTI”?
Among other things… - Laughs -
Arnaud: It was obviously a great help! I mentioned earlier the complexity of sharing large folders, this is a problem that does not exist with OOTI. By using the interface of a web page, the complete dashboard of the agency can be consulted from anywhere, very easily.
Beyond that, it is interesting in many other respects and in particular on the management of projects, workload plans and end of contracts. If this solution that we implemented changed our lives, because at the time we managed the agency with a lot of Excel files, it took on even more meaning during the confinement: I have, in 3 clicks, the visibility on the distribution of the agency's load plan. When you don't see any of your collaborators, it's a great help!
And what are you working on right now?
Arnaud: Out of around fifty projects in progress! Education, industry, defence, aquatics… The spectrum is very wide and the territory also covered, from Brest to Biarritz, from Toulouse to Strasbourg, via Larzac…
Construction of a mixed block comprising offices, hotel, RHVS and shops on the Quai des Caps in Bordeaux by Moon Safari. Delivery 2020.
When you talk about a future in which meetings will be held more by video, we understand the challenge for an agency like yours...
Arnaud: Don't talk to me about it, I spend my life in airports!
Do you remember your first project?
Arnaud: Very good! It was a house in the Basque Country.
What if we only had to keep one?
Arnaud: This is by far your most complicated question! I'm not going to keep the one that seems to me to be the most aesthetic, but the one that will remain as the most beautiful human adventure! There were several, but in the lot, I would say the project to build the Biarritz aquarium, with very technical specifications, making the project necessarily very interesting.