I was born in the South of France and grew up in a landscape of hills and vineyards with the smell of lavender, jasmine and pinewood in the air. It was a blissful way to grow up. My earliest memories are of playing with leaves and realizing that when you touched them they gave off a scent, and the first garden I took care of was that of a neighbor; I was still a child and I used to love to prune the shrubs in different shapes.
I always ask: how do we want to enjoy this outdoor space?
My style is based on the lifestyle and requirements of the client, and the function of the space. I use modern and simple lines to create timeless spaces with a mix of glamour and chic, and in that way fulfill the dreams of anyone who steps into that world.
My philosophy is: Be creative with simplicity.
Modernize the traditional. Give charm to technology. Draw harmony and hate discomfort. I like precision at the moment of analysis. Imagination at the moment of creation. Rigor at the time of execution. As a company, our experience is that of private residences, large hotels, and commercial properties, to which we bring this philosophy in equal measure.
Our culture is that of efficiency and our requirement is that of know-how.
We marry the mineral with the plant, combine nature with artifice.
I studied architecture in Paris, and at a young age ran a company in Los Angeles, which gave me a very good technical understanding of what’s required in different projects. I began by creating designs for landscapers, helping them to put on paper the vision they had conceived.
To date, I have completed more than 350 gardens, and I would say my standout projects are those that have involved finding technical solutions to link the customer’s vision with the history and outlook of the site. It’s not always about the largest budget, or the size of the area involved, although I have done some very large projects.
I still remember my very first work, which was for a French artist. I was 17 years old and I realized that what we had created for him – in addition to a beautiful décor – was a space where he could relax and enjoy the simple moments in life. Later the projects became bigger, but the purity of that realization has never changed for me.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR LANSCAPING STYLE?
WHERE DID YOU TRAIN, AND WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR STANDOUT PROJECTS OVER THE LAST 10 YEARS.
XAVIER, WHERE ARE YOU FROM AND WHAT'S YOUR EARLIEST MEMORY OF A GARDEN?
Design can be a concept, an idea, combining both the useful and the pleasing, the functional everyday to a certain beauty of the product, a modernity or an innovation, it plays on the forms, the textures. Our eye recognizes design, because it is unique, aesthetic, sometimes indefinable.
For me, landscape design, in particular, is not about plants, exposure, maintenance, color or even layout. For me, design is about problem-solving. It can’t be faked. It’s a living and breathing thing that has to weave its way through the entire organization to work effectively.
Great design solves real business challenges. Nothing is good in excess, so it does need to be contained or the process can get out of control. But more often than not, design is a very powerful thing for an organization to let run wild.
The simplest ideas often communicate the quickest, and the most focused solutions are the easiest to build, maintain and update. Simplicity in design has cheaper implementation and maintenance costs, it makes project management easier, and creates solutions that last longer. Sometimes it’s hard to achieve, but once you do, it’s loved by all.
WHAT DOES DESIGN MEAN TO YOU?
We translate what the client has in his or her mind to create a place where they feel as comfortable outside as they do inside their house. The first part of this collaboration is to propose a universe in which different living spaces correspond to their needs. This step is more aesthetic. The second part is more technical: how to adapt the project to correspond with the budget.
HOW DO YOU WORK WITH PRIVATE CLIENTS?
IS THE PROCESS OF EACH JOB THE SAME?
It’s determined by the architectural style of the house, and then by the way in which the area will be used. It is a weekend house, used daily or just for summer? What considerations should we make about maintenance?
HOW DO YOU DEFINE WHAT KIND OF STYLE SHOULD BE USED FOR EACH PROJECT?
Eighty percent of my work is through architects. Firstly, the architect shares the vision for the building and its position on the site, and that is followed by a series of brainstorming and mood board sessions between the customer, the architect, interiors and us as the landscape architects. But, even with the bigger projects, I never lose sight of the fact that these are spaces to be enjoyed, and to compliment
the houses or hotels to which they are adjoined.
IT ISN'T JUST ABOUT PRIVATE CLIENT THOUGH... HOW DO YOU WORK WITH ARCHITECT ON LARGER PROJECTS. FOR INSTANCE?
HOW IMPORTANT ARE THE MATERIALS YOU USE IN LANDSCAPING?
The materials bring the project to life, giving it character and personality, awakening our senses to the possibilities of life. A good composition of materials brings richness to a project, giving it a depth that is durable over time. The quality and variety of materials are essential.
The materials need to be in synergy with the climate, and we try to use noble materials like stone, wood and iron ... this makes the work timeless. We like to play with strong elements that give character to a project, creating a dialogue between lifestyle and the different ways to enjoy the outdoor space. We also work with new technologies in fabric, flooring and furniture – we’re constantly searching for materials that are resistant and easy to maintain.
Not really. Plants are just one aspect in a project, to a landscaper they are like a box for jewelry ... they create a green cocoon. We use plants to create the structure of the garden, as an architect would use a wall in a house to separate different areas. Plants bring the feeling of protection, and also give us pleasure through color and smell. They link all the elements on the site, whether it’s the water pond, decorative items, furniture or a fireplace.
SO, IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT PLANTS THEN?
Perspective, or how we see things from different positions, is the most important aspect in the composition of any project. Perspective can come from the entrance, or the window
of a building ... each is a different view on a single space. Perspectives have to correspond to the backbone of the garden, guiding our eyes to the rest of the area, giving us a multiplicity that creates different aspects, like a light through a prism, say.
HOW IMPORTANT IS PERSPECTIVE IN YOUR LANDSCAPING?
Maintenance is key to the sustainability of the garden, it’s a notion we integrate from the very start by working with only a careful selection of plants. We prefer to work with similar varietals to reduce competition, and we choose plants which are resistant to disease and degradation.
We use the same thinking to manage each of the elements involved in the project: efficiency, form and function, balancing an aesthetic with the needs of the client and the limitations of the climate and position of the site. We’re involved with every aspect of design, selection, maintenance, and completion, and we apply the same rigid standards to our own company and processes as we do to any of our projects. It’s a 360-degree approach.
HOW DO YOU DESIGN GARDENS TO BE EASILY MAINTAINED?
The technical aspect to any job is the basis of a good production – it’s everything that you don’t see, and often the hardest to explain to clients. It involves orientation, drainage, soil composition and irrigation, not to mention lighting and bespoke requirements, like a fountain for instance. These vital technical aspects are by their very nature invisible to anyone standing in a garden, but of course, they are ultimately essential.
LET'S TALK A BIT ABOUT THE TECHNICAL ASPECTS OF YOUR WORK.
In the beginning, yes. We decide early on how to create an outdoor living space that fulfills the aesthetic and functional requirements of the client. After that we work on perspective and views, setting the living spaces in a frame, and then within this frame we compose the planting and type of flora that will be used.