When Guillaume Houzé, a fifth-generation member of the family that owns the French department store Galeries Lafayette, calls, you pick up. Such was the case for Parisian architect Franklin Azzi about three years ago. As Azzi explains, “He knew my work and asked me to think about a project for the rooftop terrace of the Galeries Lafayette.” The challenge was to progressively develop a design for the terrace, which has a jaw-dropping 360-degree view of Paris.
It was clear too, from the outset, that Houzé was interested in building a restaurant. And while Azzi had never teamed up with Houzé before, the architect knew that his client could be trusted. “Guillaume is a huge supporter of architects and architecture and has worked with some of the best, like Rem Koolhaas,” Azzi says. “This was a real collaboration, and we worked together throughout the whole process.”
The fruit of this joint labor is a completely collapsible glass pavilion, which is home to the recently opened seafood restaurant Tortuga. “Guillaume gave me carte balance,” Azzi says of the commission. That extended not only to the structure of the building but also to who exactly would spearhead the interiors. Ultimately, Azzi, who “wanted to revisit the tradition of the department stores by working with craftsmen and artists,” selected decorator Pierre Marie.
For those familiar with that name, Marie was not such an obvious choice, given Azzi’s predilection for clean lines and rectilinear spaces. The decorator is known for his exuberant and embellished approach to design, and for bringing with him to each project a sense of extravagance and fantasy. Azzi agrees, adding, “I like to think of my architecture as an envelope for the interior. Pierre Marie’s [spaces] are rich and super-refined. I wanted [to have this type of] contrast.”
Marie’s brief was to warm up the all-glass space and allow for different day-to-night scenarios. He created two different schemes, each of which hinges on a series tapestries inspired by the sea. Of that textiles-focused choice, Marie explains, “It was meant to link the architect, Franklin, and the chef [Julien Sebbag], who loves pirates. He chose the name [Tortuga for the restaurant] because his favorite film is Pirates of the Caribbean!”
That fun fact was all Marie needed to hear to start creating images based on the chef’s fantasies. “Everything evokes images for me and gives me a pretext to design,” Marie notes, adding that he is “so happy with the results.” The space consists of six tapestries that are mounted on rods so that they can be slid to close off the entire space—or pulled back to expose nearby views and natural light. Marie also lifted motifs from the tapestries to create the cushion fabric, under curtains, menu design, outdoor parasols, and restaurant logo.
“It’s so interesting that an architect would make space for another talent whose [taste] is very different from his own but also complementary to what he does,” Marie muses. “This is not so easy. Each of us walk in our own worlds, but this worked.”