François Valentiny: architect of convictions

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In the heart of a forest in Remerschen, the architectural office of François Valentiny. A place conducive to achieving everything possible, to open-mindedness and creativity, but above all it houses, within it, an exceptional architect, an architect of convictions. Meet.

From Europe to Asia, you have been the architect of many landmark buildings making you a renowned architect in Luxembourg. Why did you choose to become an architect? What was your course ?

I think it makes sense. My father was a carpenter, so I was introduced to the profession very early on before I even trained for the trade by apprenticeship. However, basically I wanted to be a painter. But it was a solid artisanal training that formed me. The architect is above all a craftsman who must understand the daily problems of life.
I started with a technical engineer diploma from the Higher Institute of Technology in Luxembourg. Then I did a first year at the Nancy School of Architecture which, after 1968, was the most theoretical and avant-garde school in France. For a person who had an artisanal and pragmatic spirit, this atmosphere was not suitable, so I undertook trips. I discovered another world, notably in Vienna, the Alibaba cave of -rires- architecture. This is where I ended up studying, I was one of 9 out of 300 at the Universität für Angewandte Kurst.

In the 1980s, you brought a new lease of life to Luxembourg construction. How would you qualify your vision? Your art? How did you get there?
A city is nothing other than a beautiful loft and vice versa. In a defined space, functionalities must be guaranteed according to cultural and social parameters. Unfortunately today we talk too much about aesthetics but we do not do enough to make it dominate in our daily life because beauty has disappeared in many of our towns and villages. If architectural and urban beauty is not founded on a cultural and social basis, it does not interest me
The journey of my life pushed me to become an architect, of course, but it was also a choice because I wanted to change things. In the 1970s, as a conscientious craftsman, things certainly troubled me and even irritated me. All these defects in the constructions, the political lack of sensitivity also towards our heritage, our traditions, the destruction of our towns and our villages ... Luxembourg was destroyed and I was outraged! This period prompted me to start studying architecture.

Aesthetics in architecture have not been my priority since my second construction. What really matters to me now is how society works, how life together, the quality of everyday life. After all, doing architecture is my job, and aesthetic and technical issues shouldn't be a problem for me. The complexity begins with the spirit of the place "Genius Loci".

Houses, apartments, offices, sports facilities, art and culture to name a few, on your online showcase in particular, you will discover a long panel of references. Which of your masterpieces are you most proud of?

To answer that question, I would say you have to differentiate between what I personally like, what has allowed me to move forward and what is emblematic.
Some things appeal to me because they address issues that are close to my heart and that are successful because they are functional. When I go up to my village at the Bistrot Gourmand, for example, there is no longer the workshop my father carpenter and my neighbor blacksmith but the Wine Cellar of my friend Yves, whom I have known since my birth, is still there. The place in Remerschen that we have created meets the criteria perfectly for having the illusion of being in the center of things. It meets all the basic necessities and reflects a pleasant atmosphere.
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Other projects move us forward in our journey, such as those abroad. To fully understand my approach it will be necessary to read Elias Canetti. This Austro-Hungarian writer from the old empire who lived a lot in Vienna said of this city that it was different from all the other cities in Europe because we heard many languages ​​there and that every day without hearing a dozen different languages was a wasted day. I think like him, I'm so thirsty for curiosity, so hungry for foreign adventures that I can't sit still! This inner strength, this impatience, this curiosity have enabled us to build buildings internationally. When I was 26, we won a competition in Berlin where all the stars of the time were present. This experience and this environment made us move forward.

Finally, there are iconic buildings like the theater in Brazil. In reality, this construction is the result of a well-watered dinner -rires-. Together with my friends we created a music festival and developed a real project that changed my life because I had to stay there for a few months in Bahian solitude to complete it and make it extraordinary with the means at hand.
These are the three axes of my projects that make me happy.

In 2016 you inaugurated the Valentiny Foundation. Can you tell us about it?
This is my old school. This is a trompe l'oeil building, so big on the inside yet looking so small on the outside. For aesthetics, I chose to build around the existing building. Whenever you see a shrinkage in the organic form, a tree was present. This phenomenon influences your eyesight and gives you the illusion that the building is small.

Historically, when I was advised at the DAM (Deutsches Architektur Museum), I took it upon myself to find the legacy of the ancient architects. Drawings, models, real wonders dating back 300 or 400 years were disappearing in the archives ... And there I asked myself "but what are you going to do with your drawings? ". Even if you only make 3 or 4 drawings a day, multiply that for 40 years, add those from my childhood, we arrive at 50 years of drawings… So I created, in good understanding with my Schengen Municipality, the " VALENTINY foundation '
Honestly, we wanted to collaborate with the University of Luxembourg, but the change in policy led to a different development. Finally, we take care of everything, we organize, we promote, we help young people, we enhance tourism. My brother Fernand is now responsible for the Valentiny Foundation. As the building is large and we have to cover the costs, we rent spaces for artists, for conferences, caterings.
We had the chance to create in our village, schools, youth hostel, a cultural infrastructure, promoting art, biodiversity, wine spirit and everything that has appeal to nature. We wanted to make a village that works and reflects a better life and at the end of the day, we won't be able to stop halfway. Even after 40 years of work I must continue to work and to evolve. A problem of course, but an exceptional opportunity at the same time.