House San Jose, IBIZA
Luis Laplace: the art world’s architect
Luis Laplace grew up in Argentina, and now lives in Paris, but he’s as likely to be in the Alps or Ibiza or even tickling up a hotel in the Cote d’Ivoire
Acquiring a personal art collection requires a level of knowledge and expertise. And so does the next stage – working out how to incorporate it into a home. This is where Luis Laplace comes in. The architect, who grew up in Argentina, before moving to New York and then Paris, has unintentionally become something of a go-to for those whose art needs as much house-room as they do.
Recently completed projects include a chalet in Megeve where a hallucinogenic film called La Belle Etoile by the Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist has been incorporated into the swimming pool and an apartment in Vienna where the main consideration was a peerless series of paintings by the late Martin Kippenberger.
Laplace, a charming twinkly-eyed fortysomething, has also spent much of the last two years in Somerset, where he worked with Swiss gallery Hauser + Wirth on the conversion of a model farm dating from the 1760s into a fully functioning art complex. There he has linked old and new buildings with interventions in what he calls “sober materials” – contemporary brick and pre-cast concrete.
A highly structured cloister that allows a circulation route around the several separate buildings, each containing a gallery space, could be a piece of 1980s Italian rationalism. Laplace, though, says his earliest influences were constructivist and modernist. “I studied architecture and urbanism at the Universidad de Belgrano in Buenos Aires, and I went for all the old guys, the contemporaries of Niemeyer,” he laughs. “This was the 1980s, and deconstructionism was the big thing. But I’ve always cared more about form following function.”
His many private projects can certainly push this ethos to its limits. In one home, in Mallorca, he has designed a living room whose architecture can cope with a 35-ft high sculpture of a spider – Louise Bourgeoise’s famousMaman – straddling the space. “In a situation like that, you need a soaring ceiling, but not a room that feels like a cave,” says Laplace.
The installation of the Rist film in the 15-metre pool in Megeve necessitated a different type of thinking altogether. “We had to turn the bottom of the pool into a screen, which meant trying out different shades of renderings until we found the right one. We ended up with a very neutral green and it creates a cocoon. When you’re in the pool, it’s as though you are literally swimming through the art work, you are immersed.”
This is not a world of conspicuous status and spiky glamour, though. The outside areas of the chalet are paved in local stone (similar to York stone), the inside has a lot of wood. “The context is the mountains, though the client didn’t want pure rustic. The clients have a number of French and Italian antiques, and English Arts and Crafts. Quite a mix.”
Laplace describes his core clientele as “People who like to eat well and live well. Who entertain but in a spontaneous, unaffected way. It’s about creating a useful infrastructure for that way of life.” The kitchen, he says, is the most sensitive spot. “Particularly because every culture cooks so differently,” he says. “I’m learning. For the southern Europeans, it’s all about the olive oil and the onions. But for the northerners, they need space for the slicers for meat and bread. And a right or left-handed client dictates where you put the dishwasher. The most important thing is to listen.”