Benoit Cornette, partner in Anglophile French practice
French architect Benoit Cornette has died tragically in a road accident at the age of only 45. One half of the practice Decq and Cornette, with partner Odile Decq, Cornette originally trained in medicine at the University of Rennes, from which he graduated in 1978. He met Decq at an art class, and in 1980 started studying architecture at up6 at La Villette, from where she had graduated in 1978.
They set up in practice together and from 1982 were based in Paris. In 1986 Decq's work was described in the government-sponsored Album de Jeune Architecture, with Cornette credited as assistant on all projects.
Their first, and still most well-known, project is the Banque Populaire de l'Ouest in Rennes, completed in 1990. Since then their portfolio has been varied. 'We are interested,' Cornette told the aj earlier this year, 'where there is complexity.' Current projects include a research centre for St Gobain, a sports stadium and, most recently, a luxury boutique for Taiwanese clothes retailer Shirtzy which is opening its first European shop in Paris.
The pair were Anglophiles of long-standing, and the practice is considering opening an office in London. They liked the British interest in the construction process, and the use of steel as a structural material. Several potential projects in the uk failed to materialise, but the practice is working on a restaurant on London's South Bank. Cornette had recently started teaching at the Bartlett.
Clare Melhuish, author of Odile Decq Benoit Cornette, writes: 'Benoit was charming, highly articulate and widely read, with a keen intellect and a passionate interest in the latest ideas. He appeared to keep a low profile on the architectural circuit, but in fact his was a warm and engaging presence both in and outside the office. He gave clear and forceful direction to the work of the practice, but always informed by an open and inquiring mind and a sparkling sense of humour which was most refreshing. His untimely death is a terrible tragedy.'
Cornette's funeral will be held this Saturday, 28 November, at the crematorium of Pere Lachaise cemetery. There is a strict embargo on flowers - Cornette was allergic to them.