by Mary Godfrain, IDEAT
Jean Prouvé’s revolutionary prototypes in the 1950s had their offspring… The Filipino entrepreneur Robbie Antonio flooded the five continents with his prefabricated houses, and reserved architect pavilions for the wealthy, which he exhibited in Miami or Paris. Meeting with an ultra-hurried “serial real estate developer” and a tad megalomaniac…
You presented your pavilions during FIAC 2017. Why did you choose the Tuileries Garden to exhibit these works?
It’s very moving to talk about this project carried out with Jean Nouvel , a few meters from the Louvre pyramid, the work of the architect Ieoh Ming Pei, who carried out one of my very first projects with his sons. They designed the Centurion together in 2008 and 2009, an all-glass condominium in south Central Park.
From the start of your career, you called on starchitects…
Yes, I worked with a dozen Pritzker Prize winners , including Rem Koolhaas, Ieoh Ming Pei, Jean Nouvel, Christian de Portzamparc, Paulo Mendes da Rocha, Zaha Hadid and many others. I’m obsessed with architecture!
What interests you in contemporary architecture?
It’s the idea of being able to raise the prefabricated house to a fairer level, more in line with our times. In two days, we assemble houses that took two months to manufacture and can be transported and assembled anywhere in the world. And we offer them at a fair price: a few hundred thousand dollars! I don’t want to work only for a wealthy clientele. Moreover, my clients are also public authorities and developers. In Asia, I have just built a thousand prefabricated amenity houses by the sea. I also have large orders coming to me from the Middle East. My next project is prefabricated hotels, delivered turnkey. And, for the more fortunate, I imagined prefabricated pavilions designed by designers and architects…
A collection that erases the boundaries between art, architecture and design. Are you part of this trend?
Like many people of my generation, I am passionate about these three disciplines. Thanks to my job as a promoter, I try to combine them through my limited-edition pavilions. A desire that I have just materialized with the first prefabricated museum developed by Christian de Portzamparc. Our “reproducible museum” is a museum space with several elements that can be combined to adapt to the site and the hanging. I personally develop the first of these spaces in the province of Batangas, one hour from Manila. It will open this month.
Apart from the price, what is the basic difference between pavilions and houses?
Pavilions are not necessarily utilitarian. I would say that the houses respond to a need and the pavilions to a dream, like the tea pavilion or the meditation pavilion. To imagine them, I called on personalities that I took out of their comfort zone: Ron Arad or Lenny Kravitz, for whom these are the first achievements.
How is the genesis of these pavilions going?
I think first of a use. For example, I ordered a pavilion for dinner from the late Zaha Hadid, another from the Gluckman Tang agency to exhibit art. Jürgen Mayer’s agency imagined a place to meditate, while Michael Maltzan designed a beach pavilion, and Sou Fujimoto, a multifunctional space.
What is the role of technology in your projects?
It is essential ! Imagine the technology that had to be developed to build a house in two months. I make the architect and the engineers work in parallel. Thus the modular glass house, inspired by that of Philip Johnson (built in 1949, editor’s note) , was developed in ultra-technological factories. I also use technology as a sales force since all orders are made on the Internet. I spend a lot of time sourcing and meeting manufacturers around the world who work with glass, wood or steel. That is about 300 professionals on whom I rely according to their know-how and the quality-price ratio of their production.
How do you deliver these buildings?
We transport them by container and by truck. The houses, of course, need building permits, as they are equipped and must be connected to the water and electricity networks, but not the pavilions, which can simply be put up by our teams.