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Saison Menu, a view on architecture and urban development

March 05, 2014

From her native Valenciennes to Paris and Rotterdam, urban architect Isabelle Menu has seen quite a bit of country. Since 2006, her bags have remained in Roubaix, northern France, where she has been building up her agency with her husband Luc Saison. An encounter with a woman who models steel, glass and concrete in the image of a territory in full expansion.

Saison Menu, a view on architecture and urban development

Initially enrolled in medical school, it was a discussion on architecture with fellow students that piqued her curiosity. Her taste for culture and a “sabbatical year” at an architecture school then won her over, setting her life on a new trajectory.

Graduated from the Lille École d’Architecture in 1992, Isabelle Menu gained valuable experienced at the Rem Koolhaas agency in Rotterdam and in the studios of Jean Nouvel in Paris.

“Big names are not enough in the world of architecture,” she says. “You need experience and references when you start out as a young graduate.”

In 1996, at the Rem Koolhaas agency’s Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), Isabelle Menu was entrusted with a major project for the city of Lille: Euralille. Designated the laureate among young urban architects in the “project management” category in 2006, she joined SAEM Euralille as a consultant. With this, she immersed herself in a global urban project. Meeting with elected officials, urban developers, inhabitants, investors, she coordinated the works and brought to the table her personal vision of a modern neighborhood, internally open and connected –with the railroads, of course – but also with its environment.

Isabelle Menu’s great strength is her care for what already exists. Juxtaposing an urban experience with an ambitious extension or rehabilitation project is her trademark, which she has further developed since creating her own agency in 2006.

Co-founded with her husband, the Saison Menu agency is the result of a “common desire to create a company”.  The installation of the agency in Roubaix in a “zone franche” area offered the associates a number of tax breaks in the first few years. Since then, the agency has expanded and now employs 20 salaried employees. “I’m delighted to a work in a city that is undergoing urban renewal,” she says. Still not satisfied after having won the competition to design the European Centre for Innovative Textiles, and having inaugurated in 2013 the Roubaix-Tourcoing Union, she’s also passionate about projects of smaller scale. Whether public or private, for individual or collective housing or offices, she embraces each project by designing architectural scenarios.

Her twin-talents in architecture and urban development are an asset in these projects. “Saison Menu likes to build as many architectural stories as there are projects. Urban development takes a long time and requires a lot of dialogue with all the parties concerned. This time and these exchanges nourish our reflection. With our team composed of architects/urban developers, landscapers, a graphic artist and a philosopher, we can propose projects anchored in a reality that is transforming. For example, we are helping with the Euralille 3000 intensification project,” she notes.

Isabelle Menu analyses a territory, breaks down an urban design and operates with discernment to erect constructions in tune with the winds of time

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