by Anmol AhujaJul 02, 2021
“My life’s (dream) project is to discover people, places...and finally, all life has to be an adventure. That’s my real purpose. And the adventure is to share with people.”
The signature quirk in Jean-Marie’s UNSCRIPTED conversation spilled over right in his introduction to the video interview: turning 55 this September, Jean-Marie Massaud playfully stated his age to be 45, a number as unreliable as our narrator here. The rest of the chat became a high-spirited reflection of his own joyous self, his responses on unknown facts and interesting bytes about himself dowsed in fun, stemming from a life that he moulded such that it could be called beautiful today.
Born and brought up in Toulouse, having lost both his father and brother when young, Jean-Marie Massaud didn’t find his calling in life until he was 19. He recalled preparing to be an aeronautical engineer like the many young men in the 17th century French town, home to the region’s aerospace industry, housing both the European Airbus headquarters and the French space agency. But the influence – or a faint link to the practice of design, sprouted through his early education before he transitioned. The eccentric designer, an architect by formal education and partly his practice, reminisces assembling bricolages and designing automobiles including submarines, cars, and day-boats to manifest his creative energies that straddled between between engineering and design.
The singular, most striking thing about Massaud’s vast repertoire of works is thus a willed inconsistency and diversity in the typologies of design. His projects range from tableware for Air France and luxury EVs to a 40,000-seater stadium on the slopes of a volcano in Guadalajara, Mexico. Furniture, interiors, and lighting: what a plethora of designers find their sole calling in, remain vocations he clubbed under his larger quest of designing a pleasing experience for his users.
While Massaud remained a man of many quirks through the chat, the desire to decipher his biggest pet peeve: that of dressing in white, was an obvious temptation. Recalling his early days in Paris, dressing like most young architects would, in black, he felt an alienation: both to the city and the dark hues it had impinged on him. “I feel comfortable in it: it’s about light. For me, it reflects energy. I feel very comfortable in it. If I put some dark things on, I feel like a prisoner”. Finding his peace in one end of the monotone spectrum, Massaud shunned both and the white has stayed on him since – a sure time-saver when packing for travels, he jovially shares.
It’s about light. For me, it reflects energy. I feel very comfortable in it. If I put some dark things on, I feel like a prisoner.
A particularly important inspiration in his works, and a response that stood out by virtue of its passion, was Massaud’s belief in animism, and how deeply the belief drove him. “I think we are all gods. Because we are all part of this big adventure, this big “Gaia” meta-organism.” In a fitting allegory then, his home became his “nest”, while his office, physically headquartered in Paris pre-pandemic, “doesn’t exist anymore”, having comfortably settled into the digital nomadic life with his associates, co-workers, and operations spread across the globe. A befitting fulfilment of his 10-year old dream of wanting to “work on vacation”, Jean-Marie speaks to STIR from a suitably white toned, quaint residence in South-East of France where he is now settled, with the mountains and seas nearly at his doorstep. His next project: building a sailboat to cross the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.
All this and much more: tap on the cover video to watch the complete conversation.
Curated by Pramiti Madhavji (Consultant, Content Adviser, STIR), UNSCRIPTED is a STIR-original series of quick-witted video interviews with leading design professionals who give a peek into their undiscovered lives. A melting pot of quests, revelations and quirks, the series releases a new episode every Sunday as designers reveal unheard and unknown nuggets from their lives, in response to 30 questions.
All photographs © Jean-Marie Massaud. Images may not be downloaded, copied, reproduced, or used in part or whole without obtaining permission. The photographs in this video are not licensed for personal, commercial, or public use, or use in the public domain in any form.