Tell us about your background. How did you arrive at design?
JMM - I’m the kid of a very simple family. I was born in Toulouse. I have a scientific and technological background. I started engineering school—aircraft engineering—but it was so specialized. Then, at about 19 years old, I discovered design, and I thought, “Oh, what is this? This is the perfect job—like a Club Med vacation! You can manage projects any way you want—any kind of project!”
What is design to you? What is your approach to it?
JMM - For me, design is this: You see a context. It could be a very large context or a very focused one. And you see what the stakes are. They could be cultural, ecological, economic —but there are many other stakes as well, some of which might seem paradoxical. Once you’ve identified the stakes, elegant design is just how to manage a simple solution that makes the creative synthesis of all of them.
Along with a philosophy of design, you seem to have a very clear philosophy of life. It’s reflected in the way you run your studio.
JMM - Everybody today is working 24 hours a day—especially creative people, because your mind is always going. So, if we’re always working, let’s work while on vacation. So I started to move around, to live in the South of France. Today, with an iPad Pro, I’m linked with my team. I can work in the forest, on the top of mountain or out on the sea. And we are working incredibly freely, but together. One is in Nantes. The others are in Paris. I’m in St. Paul de Vence. But we are linked. And that’s it. We share this life and this work with each other. The key word is “with”.
Tell us a little about your latest project for AXOR.
JMM - With this new collection, AXOR Edge, we explore the world of extreme refinement. Uniqueness. Out of the standard. We wanted to create an emotion by surprising people. When quality is a must, when competence is a due, then emotion must be first. . And so, it’s about sharing an experience of this extremely refined world in which the top-level architects or decorators try to create a piece of art. AXOR Edge can be an element of this unique composition.
What was your inspiration for AXOR Edge?
JMM - In France, we had a big cultural tradition of arts décoratifs, where architects would work with a lot of super-refined craftsmen and sculptors to, for example, create the pattern of a façade. And we thought, OK, AXOR is a top brand. Let’s explore some processes to produce a faucet that’s not just die-casting and polishing—it’s making sculpture!
What is luxury for you?
JMM - Luxury for me is quality and competence, of course. But in luxury, there is another layer of added value. It’s a layer of culture, of legacy, transposed in a contemporary world. It’s another dimension—one that is not necessary, maybe, but that transmits a culture.
Tell us about the collaboration with AXOR.
JMM - To accomplish a project at this level of demand, resources and even trust—the trust to develop a brand new machinery, precise to one micron—you can only work with a unique partner like AXOR. We are at the level of luxury watchmaking. But at the same time, we are allowing every single customer to choose his individual finish if he wants.
Since graduating from Paris’ ENSCI-Les Ateliers in 1990, Jean-Marie Massaud has worked on projects in a vast range of scales and contexts. From a volcano-inspired football stadium in Mexico to a ‘Manned Cloud’ airship concept for ONERA to award-winning objects for everyday use, his work seeks to renew its subject through a thoughtful reconsideration of the stakes and an instinctive quest for elegance and lightness.
Find out more about Jean-Marie Massaud