UNSCRIPTED with Jean-Marie Massaud: Gaia and the Gods Within

The French designer’s obsession with white, his belief in nature guiding his designs and a desire to “work on vacation” are discovered on UNSCRIPTED, a STIR original video series.

by Anmol AhujaPublished on : Jun 18, 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.”

-Jean-Marie Massaud

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.

  • French designer Jean-Marie Massaud has worn numerous hats within the realm of design, including architecture, furniture, lighting, and even automobiles | UNSCRIPTED with Jean-Marie Massaud | Interviews | STIRworld
    French designer Jean-Marie Massaud has worn numerous hats within the realm of design, including architecture, furniture, lighting, and even automobiles Image: Fred Frety, Courtesy of Jean-Marie Massaud
  • Jean-Marie Massaud dreamt of becoming an aeronautical engineer in his childhood like most youth in his city, until he found his calling in design at age 19 | UNSCRIPTED with Jean-Marie Massaud | Interviews | STIRworld
    Jean-Marie Massaud dreamt of becoming an aeronautical engineer in his childhood like most youth in his city, until he found his calling in design at age 19 Image © Jean-Marie Massaud
  • Massaud states travel and fantasy to be his bonafide and preferred escapes from daily life since youth | UNSCRIPTED with Jean-Marie Massaud | Interviews | STIRworld
    Massaud states travel and fantasy to be his bonafide and preferred escapes from daily life since youth Image © Jean-Marie Massaud

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 Volcano Stadium by Jean-Marie Massaud for the Gudalajara football team | UNSCRIPTED with Jean-Marie Massaud | Interviews | STIRworld
    The Volcano Stadium by Jean-Marie Massaud for the Gudalajara football team Image: Courtesy of Omnilife and Jean-Marie Massaud
  • The Rock Table for MDF by Jean-Marie Massaud | UNSCRIPTED with Jean-Marie Massaud | Interviews | STIRworld
    The Rock Table for MDF by Jean-Marie Massaud Image: Courtesy of Jean-Marie Massaud
  • Tableware for La- Première, Air France | UNSCRIPTED with Jean-Marie Massaud | Interviews | STIRworld
    Tableware for La- Première, Air France Image: Courtesy of Jean-Marie Massaud
  • Poliform Villa featuring multiple furniture pieces from Jean-Marie Massaud | UNSCRIPTED with Jean-Marie Massaud | Interviews | STIRworld
    Poliform Villa featuring multiple furniture pieces from Jean-Marie Massaud Image: Courtesy of Jean-Marie Massaud
  • The Carbon Piano by Jean-Marie Massaud | UNSCRIPTED with Jean-Marie Massaud | Interviews | STIRworld
    The Carbon Piano by Jean-Marie Massaud Image: Courtesy of Jean-Marie Massaud

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.

  • The Volcano Stadium by Jean-Marie Massaud for the Gudalajara football team | UNSCRIPTED with Jean-Marie Massaud | Interviews | STIRworld
    Massaud posing in white beside his design of the Toyota ME.WE Image: Courtesy of Jean-Marie Massaud, ©pierremonetta
  • The designer gave up darker shades of clothing as he moved out of Paris and has stuck to a permanent all-white attire since | UNSCRIPTED with Jean-Marie Massaud | Interviews | STIRworld
    The designer gave up darker shades of clothing as he moved out of Paris and has stuck to a permanent all-white attire since Image © Jean-Marie Massaud

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.
  • Massaud, an avid traveller, states the mountains to be one of the places where he finds his calm | UNSCRIPTED with Jean-Marie Massaud | Interviews | STIRworld
    Massaud, an avid traveller, says the mountains are one of the places where he finds his calm Image: Courtesy of Omnilife and Jean-Marie Massaud
  • JMM’s current residence in South East France, closer to nature as he desired | UNSCRIPTED with Jean-Marie Massaud | Interviews | STIRworld
    JMM’s current residence in South East France, closer to nature as he desired Image: Courtesy of Omnilife and Jean-Marie Massaud

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.

UNSCRIPTED:
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.

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