Paul Cournet

The Genesis of CLOUD

Paul Cournet, an architect and researcher based in Rotterdam, has carved a unique path in the world of architecture. From his formative years studying in Bordeaux and Paris to his tenure at OMA, where he played a pivotal role in diverse projects, Paul’s journey is one of exploration, creativity, and innovation. In 2022, he founded CLOUD, an international architecture, research, and design studio, marking a new chapter in his career. We had the privilege of sitting down with Paul to delve into his experiences, insights, and the fascinating intersection of architecture, education, and research.

Paul, thank you for joining us. Can you share with us the inspiration behind founding CLOUD, and what drives your vision for the studio?

Right after COVID I felt the world was in a different place. Honestly, COVID was a wake-up call for me. The world has been changing so rapidly in the past few years and I felt it was time for a different approach to architecture. An architecture driven by a new generation. I was also having so many conversations with so many inspiring people that, after a decade working at OMA*AMO, I thought it was the right time to start a new project – a multidisciplinary practice, at the intersection between architecture, research and design. This is how CLOUD was born. At CLOUD our interest lies in the materiality of architecture, both for its intangible as well as its tangible aspects, and the tension between them. We work on buildings as well as many other projects such as books, curation, scenography, and objects. We are currently working with clients such as the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam for which we are renovating the public areas of the museum, furniture pieces for galleries and brands, a modular timber housing concept in Belgium, as well as self-initiated research projects exploring innovations in materials.

It’s fascinating how interconnected our paths can be. For six years, I had the opportunity to collaborate with AMO on several fashion projects while working through a creative studio. I’m intrigued to learn how your experience in that realm has shaped your perspective on architecture and research.

Originally I come more from the art side of things. When I was a teenager I used to spend my time painting murals in abandoned factories and train stations. This got me interested in architecture and cities. I then studied architecture in France in the early 2000s and it was a moment of cultural explosion thanks to the internet where all of a sudden it was really easy to download any kind of movie, music and book online from across the world. This really opened my mind. At this moment, Rem Koolhaas had just published his new book ‘Content’ (2004) and AMO was developing all kinds of research-based projects with exhibitions, lectures, and installations which appeared to me so inspiring as a practice, and radically different from the architecture scene in France at that time. So as soon as I could, I applied for an internship and started working there at the end of 2010. Today I am still very interested in the possibility of working at different scales. I see architecture in everything and I believe that you can make a point with a building as much as with a chair.

When discussing Rotterdam, a city I once called home, I always admired its ongoing social evolution and its uniquely pragmatic approach, distinct from other European cities. How do you envision Rotterdam evolving over the next decade?

Rotterdam has changed a lot in the last decade that is for sure but for me, it has been the perfect place to start an architecture studio for different reasons: It is still the largest harbor of Europe which has made the city truly embracing diversity in its history. The city is also still relatively affordable and is not yet overly-saturated compared to Amsterdam or other larger European cities. In short, it is still pretty easy and affordable to start a studio here. Our studio is located in one of the ‘antikraak’ buildings which allows us to rent a space way under the market value. There is also a lot of industry around the city making it easy to produce things with manufacturers locally. And to finish, Rotterdam is pretty much in the center of Europe which makes it central and well connected to Paris, Milan, Brussels, Amsterdam, London, for work. Also overall I love to be in Rotterdam because it is a city pretty much under the radar, and we can simply focus and work without being too distracted. But yes, indeed, the city is changing rapidly and I bet in 10 years the city will be very different.

Could you elaborate on the ‘Datapolis’ research project? I’m interested to learn more about its objectives and how it fits into the current architectural landscape.

Datapolis is a project I initiated at the architecture faculty of TU Delft in 2019 as a research and design studio with Negar Sanaan Bensi. The central question was trying to understand what the ‘CLOUD’ is and how it operates. You know, the ‘CLOUD’ is this thing that we talk about every single day when we send emails and photos to each other, order online, use social media platforms and work from home; but that we can’t grasp how it truly works nor where it is or what we should share or not with each other online regardless of time zones or political borders. The ‘CLOUD’ is a metaphor but also a reality. Our intuition was that this immaterial CLOUD is indeed made of a tangible infrastructure with a vast physical footprint on our planet – think for instance data centers, connected satellites, automated distribution centers, undersea internet cables and humanoid robots. This intriguing complexity made this project an urgent research for us considering the discussions on climate change and ecological footprints of this data infrastructure. As the university studio grew into a bigger project and we expanded the conversation outside of the school, we then turned the research into a DATAPOLIS book in June 2023. The project now continues in different forms and we are now working on a series of DATAPOLIS exhibitions that will open later in 2024.

The recent design week showcased your involvement in numerous activities. Although we didn’t get a chance to chat, I expressed my gratitude to Sabine, with whom you collaborated on the scenography for promoting design and culture during the AlUla opening. Could you share more about your role in this endeavour?

Sabine and I were invited to curate and design the scenography of Design Space AlUla for Salone del Mobile 2024 in Milan. The show presented the outcomes from the latest design initiatives in AlUla. Here we wanted to create an immersive experience to translate some of the magical features that one can find while visiting the oasis: the stargazing and the moonshine in the desert, the visit of the old town and the historical Hegra sites that we translated in different features for the exhibition, respectively: a suspended light box changing colors during the day, the ‘urban carpet’ painted on the floor of the basilica that organized the exhibition layout and the monumental entrance that opened the exhibition to the streets of Milan.

We also visited Capsule Plaza during design week, now in its second edition. What distinguishes this unique concept?

This year we unveiled the second edition of CAPSULE PLAZA, the design festival that I have co-curated with Alessio Ascari, and launched the third issue of CAPSULE, the design magazine. A hybrid between a fair and a collective exhibition, Capsule Plaza brings together designers and companies from various creative fields, bridging industry and culture with a bold and multi-sensory curation that spans interiors and architecture, beauty and technology, innovation and craft.

This year the event took over two iconic Milanese locations: Spazio Maiocchi and 10 Corso Como. What is really exciting is to be able to create projects between all of these different industries and create a collective experience under a single roof. On top of the exhibitions, we also curated a dense program of live activations with talks, dinners, performances, workshops etc during the whole week which allows us to program both the hardware as well as the software of the event. This year the event was sub-titled ‘Radical Sensations’ as for us design is much more than a bunch of chairs and sofas, and design should call to activate all our senses.

As a guest teacher and lecturer across various universities in Europe, how do you approach educating the next generation of architects?

The world is changing rapidly and therefore education should also rethink completely how it operates more than ever. I have seen so many schools that claim to think outside of the box and promote a free and utopian thinking for their students but when you look at academia, they operate in a complete echo chamber. At the end of the day, they are the box. The relationship of ‘master and slave’ between students and professors should completely be abolished and schools should operate in a more collaborative process. There are some great examples in the past, look at Black Mountain College for instance. Education should be horizontal. We should also impose on anyone with a professional activity to go back to school every 5 years for a semester for instance. It would really change the dynamics for the better I think.

It might seem like a straightforward question, but I believe that our deepest passions often drive us to explore research and undertake projects. Can you share a situation or project where your emotions played the most significant role?

Just quit the job that you had built for over a decade with a stable position and all the benefits that goes with it. Call it quit on Friday and jump into the void. Start your own studio with no masterplan in mind, just because you have this feeling this is the right thing to do that day and that you believe something positive will come out of it. Focus on creativity and surround yourself with people that are smarter than you. Just take that risk …

Fifty-two years ago, the Club of Rome issued its seminal report, ‘The Limits to Growth,’ alerting the world to the finite nature of our planet’s resources. As an architect and researcher, could you share your perspective on what has been achieved in the past five decades and what remains to be addressed? Most importantly, what steps should we be taking now?

Architects are probably the best at giving lessons, but also probably the worst at taking them. Over the last 100 years, the modern movement embraced industrialization in the name of standardization and cost efficiency without taking into account the costs their actions would have on our planet. Today, the construction industry is one of the most polluting industries. If you look at any city in the world today, we still build architecture using almost exclusively concrete and steel. We are so short sighted that any of our buildings are fully climatized and contemporary architecture has become disposable in 90% of the cases. Architecture has lost any meaning for our society. We need to create a world based on new radical regulations where architecture has become non-extractive, where our cities produce more energy that they consume and where our society truly coexists with the environment. We also need less things and focus on quality instead. Only then we will be able to claim that we have properly read the Club of Rome’s report and learnt our lessons …

In order of appearance

  1. CLOUD / Studio Sabine Marcelis. Design Space AlUla. Milan Design Week 2024. Photography by Alejandro Ramirez Orozco. Courtesy of CLOUD.
  2. Paul Cournet. Photography by Nikola Lamburov. Courtesy of Paul Cournet.
  3. Datapolis: Exploring the Footprint of Data on Our Planet and Beyond, Paul Cournet, Negar Sanaan Bensi. Published by nai010 publishers, 2023. Photography by Riccardo De Vecchi.
  4. CLOUD / Studio Sabine Marcelis. Design Space AlUla. Milan Design Week 2024. Photography by Alejandro Ramirez Orozco. Courtesy of CLOUD.
  5. CLOUD / Studio Sabine Marcelis. Design Space AlUla. Milan Design Week 2024. Photography by CLOUD. Courtesy of CLOUD.
  6. niceworkshop. Capsule Plaza. Milan Design Week 2024. Photography by CLOUD. Courtesy of CLOUD.
  7. Panton Lounge. Capsule Plaza. Milan Design Week 2024. Photography by CLOUD. Courtesy of CLOUD.
  8. LC2 Chair. Paul Cournet. Photography by Titia Hahne. Courtesy of CLOUD and Titia Hahne.
  9. Barcelona Foam. Paul Cournet. Photography by Titia Hahne. Courtesy of CLOUD and Titia Hahne.


Exploring the roots of studioutte: a conversation with founders Guglielmo Giagnotti and Patrizio Gola

In the heart of Milan’s Central Station area, the modern charm of rationalist architecture is experiencing a renaissance under the touch of studioutte. Led by the dynamic duo of Guglielmo Giagnotti and Patrizio Gola, who established the studio in 2020, studioutte is not just about architecture—it’s a multifaceted practice that delves into interior design, decoration, and the creation of collectible designs.

Deriving its name from ‘hütte’, a term that evokes images of huts, cabins, and shelters, studioutte’s ethos is rooted in a blend of distinct Italian tradition and harmonious, integrated design principles. The studio’s approach is informed by a deep engagement with vernacular architecture and varied regional influences, striving for a design language that eschews redundancy and extremity for clarity and expressiveness.

Guglielmo and Patrizio, nice to meet you. It’s exciting to learn more about studioutte, which you established in 2020. To start, could you tell us what inspired the founding of your Milan-based practice?

We were led by the idea of restoring a certain cultured and gentle minimalism that have always been present in the Italian history but recently disappeared in favour of an eclectic ultra – decorative approach. 

If I asked you to show me a place uniquely Milanese, where would you take me?

We are truly fascinated by the powerful presence of the Angelicum by Giovanni Muzio in Piazza Sant Angelo.

The name “studioutte” is quite unique. Can you explain the meaning behind it and how it reflects your approach to design?

Hütte means hut, shelter. We are always linking the idea of architectural composition to a sense of protection and retreat.

Your work emphasizes a hybrid design of architecture research and influences from various regional practices. How do you incorporate these diverse elements into a cohesive design language?

It is a kind of spontaneous digestion of an infinite accumulation of images, observations, travel experiences that naturally flow towards the final object. Always guided by a precise research of proportions and materials.

What does the idea of a “waiting room” evoke for you?

A sense of suspension and tension towards something assertive and definitive, that for us means timeless Architecture.

I understand that studioutte aims for a design aesthetic that reaches beyond simple forms to express a primitive essence. Could you expand on what this means in your creative process?

It is an instinctive path towards simplicity  and mute forms of a space or an object. It is taking a lot of energy and time while aiming to reach a balance of shapes and material that leads to a sense of metaphysical anonymity.

Lastly, how do you envision Milan’s evolution over the next decade as a cultural hub for designers and artists?

Milan is a great hub, the challenge will be being more and more open to different cultures and paths intersection without loosing its own rational introvert dark and magnificent identity 

In order of appearance

  1. Milan Design Week 2023, studioutte x district eight. Photography by Vito Salamone. Courtesy of studioutte.
  2. Bedroom, Viale Brianza Apartment, Milan, studioutte. Photography by Paolo Abate. Courtesy of studioutte.
  3. Entrance, Viale Brianza Apartment, Milan, studioutte. Photography by Paolo Abate. Courtesy of studioutte.
  4. Rootine Wellness Club, Munich, studioutte, , Photography by Romain Laprade. Courtesy of studioutte.
  5. Master Bedroom, Antwerp House, studioutte. Courtesy of studioutte.
  6. Stair View, Moncucco House, studioutte. Courtesy of studioutte.
  7. Steel Lamp, Milan Design Week 2024, studioutte. Photography by Romain Laprade. Courtesy of studioutte.
  8. Milan Design Week 2024, studioutte. Photography by Romain Laprade. Courtesy of studioutte.
  9. Bathroom, Via Volturno Apartment, Milan, studioutte. Photography by Vito Salamone. Courtesy of studioutte.
  10. Entrance, Via Volturno Apartment, Milan, studioutte. Photography by Vito Salamone. Courtesy of studioutte.

Studio HAOS

Through the Lens: From Photography to Design with Studio HAOS

Sophie Gelinet and Cédric Gepner didn’t have formal training in furniture design, but they shared a passion that led them to create their first lamp. That lamp became the foundation for a collection, and in 2017, Studio HAOS was born.

They believe in keeping things simple, using materials like oak plywood and sheet metal to create thoughtful furniture and lighting. They focus on clarity and proportions, avoiding unnecessary complexity. Now based in Lisbon, their work is recognised worldwide, and they’re represented by galleries in major cities like Paris, New York, and London.

Sophie and Cédric, thanks for being here with me. Could you narrate the journey of Studio HAOS, from its inception with the creation of your first lamp to evolving into a fully-fledged design studio?

We had the desire to work on something together, on the side of our regular jobs. We had a shared interest in photography, and that led us to a few personal projects in France and in the north of India. At some point I wanted to try something new and started working on the prototype of a first lamp, and Cedric soon joined me. It was just something we were doing for fun on the side of our regular jobs. From what was initially a single lamp we made a small series, we then reached out to the press, got some publications, started getting some orders, etc. It started like that, quite randomly. We created the studio in 2017, and a couple of years later reached the point where we could both work full time on HAOS. 

How did your previous exploration in photography inform or shape your approach to design?

Looking back at it I think it helped in three ways. The first one was learning how to collaborate on a creative endeavour, which is not simple especially when you are also partners in life. The second was that it helped us develop our understanding of what makes a good picture: just as much as in photography, design is about arranging shapes, finding harmony, playing with light, shadows, shades, textures… The third and maybe most important is that it’s usually fruitful to be exposed to as many fields as possible. It’s often at the intersection of seemingly unrelated interests that cross pollination or creativity happen. Trying to understand and replicate the appeal of pictures by Stephen Shore, Joel Sternfeld or Alec Soth, to name a few, that must have permeated into our practice of design in many positive ways that we don’t necessarily understand.

Your design ethos revolves around elevating humble materials such as plywood and sheet metal. What attracts you to these materials, and how do you integrate them into your designs?

One key feature of photography is that the most vernacular subject matter can be transformed into singular, poetic images. And this kind of transmutation can be achieved with the most basic equipment. All that is required is an understanding of colour, form, and composition. We believe design should work in the same way. Very intricate and time-consuming savoir-faire applied to opulent materials, that’s where craftsmen can shine. In our view the focus of designers should be on shape and form. The more accessible the materials and techniques, the better, as it is the thinking process that then takes center stage. If a piece is thought-out, it doesn’t need to be loud to catch attention. On the contrary, we believe there is a particular form of elegance that lies in the ability to express or evoke emotions with restraint and with purposely limited means. It’s not exactly a new idea, it has been exemplified by many designers and artists for more than a century, just think of Gerrit Rietveld and his crate chair, Achille Castiglioni’s floor lamp based on a car headlight, or the works of minimalists such as Donald Judd or Charlotte Posenenske. But this conversation is not over and it’s especially relevant today.

What does the concept of “slow design” signify for you, and how does it manifest in your creative process and final products?

Actually our practice tends to go in the opposite direction. We are now trying to experiment faster, because the more experiments we undertake (with new processes, new materials, etc.) the more chances we have to stumble upon something worthwhile.

How has the environment and atmosphere of Lisbon influenced your creative process and the direction of your designs?

Lisbon happened by accident. The initial plan was to relocate to Tangier in Morocco, but as the pandemy picked up again late 2021, we decided to make a stopover in Lisbon until things settled. It’s a city that’s hard not to like, and the stopover turned into a long-term installation. Being here enabled us to open a large-scale workshop, where design, prototyping and production can happen side-by-side. We can go from an idea to a finished piece in a matter of weeks instead of having to wait months for a first prototype. And we now have a lot more freedom to play with materials, processes and finishes. 

Studio HAOS is known for embracing simplicity while eschewing unnecessary complexity in design. How do you navigate the delicate balance between minimalism and functionality in your creations?

It can be tempting to free oneself from the “functionality” constraint, and make pieces that have more value as a work of art than as a functional object, and some do it very well. As for our way of practicing design, we feel it’s important to keep it because ultimately constraints are essential to the process of creation. Paradoxically the more constraints you have and the more creative you have to be, and besides functionality, we don’t have that many of them. We indeed have to balance this with quite a minimalistic approach, but they are not necessarily opposites. Minimalism for us is not about stripping everything out, it’s about achieving the desired effect with restraint, trying to be subtle rather than loud, leaning away from frivolous complication. In that sense ornament can be necessary, and functionality is not a cross to carry.

Reflecting on your journey so far, what advice would you offer to yourselves when you were first embarking on this path?

We were quite self conscious when we started, not having a product design background, and we would spend way too much time on each object. It usually doesn’t make them better, quite the opposite in fact. Looking back I would tell myself to be more confident, build more pieces, because with each new piece we make mistakes, learn, and get better at what we do. In other words, “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey”.

As Studio HAOS continues to evolve, what are your aspirations and goals for the future of the studio?

I hope we’ll always have the curiosity to experiment with new ways of doing things, and that we will keep doing so surrounded by a team of talented and fun people. And above all, I hope that we always get to keep the immense privilege of being allowed to spend our days making beautiful things, and be paid for it. 

In order of appearance

  1. ANTIMATIÈRE Exhibition, 2024, Paris. Photography by Depasquale and Maffini. Courtesy of CONTRIBUTIONS Design
  2. Aluminium Side Table. Photography by Inês Silva Sá. Courtesy of Studio HAOS.
  3. Aluminium Dining Table. Photography by Inês Silva Sá. Courtesy of Studio HAOS.
  4. Grid Chair. Photography by Inês Silva Sá. Courtesy of Studio HAOS.
  5. Leather Chair. Photography by Inês Silva Sá. Courtesy of Studio HAOS.
  6. Aluminium Lounge Chair. Photography by Inês Silva Sá. Courtesy of Studio HAOS.
  7. Aluminium Arm Chair. Photography by Inês Silva Sá. Courtesy of Studio HAOS.
  8. Aluminium Bench. Photography by Inês Silva Sá. Courtesy of Studio HAOS.
  9. Steel Lamp 3. Photography by Inês Silva Sá. Courtesy of Studio HAOS.
  10. Steel Lamp 1. Photography by Inês Silva Sá. Courtesy of Studio HAOS.

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