From a 1930’s house situated in the greenest district of Shanghai, Naço Architectures has produced a radiant contemporary villa, given rhythm by a sequence of varying sized cubes made from pure materials: wood, stone, metal and glass. For Marcelo Joulia, founder of Naço, “The objective was to produce a house destined for Europeans in Asia. To conceive a family house which opens onto the exterior, but which is also a refuge protecting from bad weather and the aggression of the city. It was obvious that the house should be luminous and airy. The latter being my trademark.’

Each of the villa’s rooms therefore offers a view of the outside. “On the second floor, for example, you can only see the leaves on the tree. You feel like you are in a hanging garden,” marvels Isabelle Chouvet, the happy owner. This French couple living in China (where they run a cut price fashion accessories website and an events agency) were keen to conserve an Asian appearance for their home by giving it a Japanese tone, the mineral and organic elegance of which has also inspired Marcelo Joulia for a long time.

Five cubes, each a different material, form the structure of the house: an Iranian stone cube for the entrance, a metal and glass cube extends the master bedroom on the top floor where again a wooden cube is suspended outside, like a tree house in the garden for children. An outstanding creation with great attention to detail, which again is an example of Naço’s plurality, capable, with the same delight, of going from a Pathé multiplex cinema to a private, refined villa achieved through design, graphic design, etc…

Born in 1958 in Cordoba (Argentina), Marcelo Joulia arrived in France in 1976 to escape the repression of Videla’s government. An Architecture de la Villette School UP6 graduate, he founded Naço in 1991. In Guarani, Naço means intuition, one of several words which characterise Joulia’s need for freedom. For it is architecture, design, graphic design, video, scenography, fashion and events, that Naço has intended to explore with nothing to stop him from the start, under the term ‘Global Design.’ A passion for images naturally makes Naço a cinema specialist in France, from the ‘salle d’art et d’essai’ (cinema auditorium for experimental works) to the multiplex. A talent for media and mediator status very quickly led the agency to conceive places intended for exchange or conviviality: salons; fashion shows; boutiques; bars; restaurants; hotels… As creative as he is rigorous, as smiley as he is headstrong, as amicable as he is radically autonomous, within 20 years Marcelo Joulia has established a unique architecture agency in France with an ongoing concern: to create the best production tool possible to bring whatever he desires to life.

Joulia belongs to the first generation of architects trained in 3D imaging software. But where some are satisfied with the status of media-related animator using projects-scenarios, Naço learns and takes from this period, before rapidly leaving this creative adolescence behind him to face up to reality. Obvious projects like “The Arrows of Time”, the ambition of which was to complete Notre-Dame by crowning it with wooden arrows for the start of the year 2000, Naço keeps the intuition for communicating projects and a taste for research that he applies going forward to the rest of the architectural spectrum. Hotels, multiplexes, individual houses, boats, bikes or furnishing… Marcelo Joulia always goes beyond the computer generated image to take on the first scale prototype, an indispensable passage in order to confront reality. Naço is interested in everything and, especially, does everything, preferably alone.

In Paris, the Naço agency is also a restaurant, Unico, and a gallery, Cédille, like geographical extensions in the shape of conviviality or rallying points. For several years now, Naço has continued to grow, and therefore to export, thanks to the desire and intuition of the Argentinian political exile, Marcelo Joulia, for whom France at times seems too small, too constricted.

-The opening of Naço Shanghai in 2005, with a slightly mad departure for China, still founded on this intuition: from then on he has employed 22 people there. A gallery opened in 2009.

-The opening in 2008 of Naço Buenos Aires, the third agency in this ‘international Naço network’, with the duplicate reproduction of a philosophy which considers it necessary to prove itself again and again. We are awaiting not only the imminent opening of a restaurant in Buenos Aires, (UNIK in October), but also the very first 100% Naço hotel in Buenos Aires, the UNO Hotel in 2011. Each of them is a small point on the world map which traces the outline of a unique, human and terribly efficient path.

Photos credits : Jean François Jassaud / Lux Productions