Art breathes more soul into real estate

Expert interview - 11/18/2016

Real estate is a top-of-mind for many investors today and it is a key component of our offering. Laurent Dumas, Chairman-Founder of the Emerige Group, tells us how art and aesthetics can create additional value for this sector.

The Emerige Group has three activities – restructuring real estate assets, office development and housing development – ran with a unique approach which involves giving all projects an artistic and aesthetic dimension.

Laurent Dumas - Crédit photo : Adrien DasteLaurent Dumas, Chairman-Founder of the Emerige Group, met with us at the Hôtel Beaubrun, in the Marais district of Paris. This mansion house, the company’s headquarters, which was restored three years ago, is like a contemporary art centre and, notably, contains no reference to real estate. Laurent Dumas explains why and how he combines his passion and his work on day-to-day basis.

Laurent Dumas, how does Emerige stand out from its competitors?

Laurent Dumas: In France, our activity is focused mainly on Paris and Ile-de-France, and in Spain, on Madrid and Barcelona. To remain true to our commitment to quality, we operate only in so-called "zones tendues" (urban areas with a housing shortage), where demand is very high and there is a good public transport system. Regional growth would require another organisational structure. We also stand out by the very high level of care that we devote to our projects, whether they involve offices or housing. They all include an artistic dimension. Regardless of the budget or selling price, an aesthetic and artistic dimension is always fully integrated into all construction projects. Our DNA, the innovative choice that differentiates us, is access to artistic creativity for everyone.

Day out to Versaille, a programme in partnership with the Etablissement public du Château de Versailles - July/August 2016.


Why do you want to facilitate access to artistic creativity?

LD: Art is a remarkable lever for reducing inequality. It can help young people or people who have little access to culture to liberate themselves and broaden their horizons. It can also instil in them the desire to take an interest in areas with which they are not familiar. 

"Our DNA, the innovative choice that differentiates us, is access to artistic creativity for everyone."

It is our duty, as responsible contractors, to initiate such actions. That is why Emerige is developing an artistic and cultural education programme. In this context, in July and August 2016, in collaboration with the public establishment of the Château de Versailles, we organised a "Day out to Versailles" for several thousand children.

This initiative allowed a very large number of children not going on holiday, to discover, via a cultural outreach scheme, the Château and the works of Olafur Eliasson, artist in residence in 2016.

In addition, we should support artists because of the emotions that they inspire in us. Our numerous initiatives include our 2014 launch of "Bourse Révélations Emerige", intended to offer young French artists a platform for their work.

Where does art fit in with your various property developments?

LD: We are very particular about our choice of architects and how we relate to them. This connection extends to the internal design of communal areas, which we carry out with architectural designers. But this concept of art goes well beyond that.

"Art is a remarkable lever for reducing inequality. It can help young people or people who have little access to culture to liberate themselves and broaden their horizons."
Laurent Dumas

Convinced that art can change the course of things, Emerige was behind the "One building, one artwork" charter. It was signed by 13 real estate professionals and the minister for culture. Objective: to make art, culture and creativity accessible to as many people as possible. Thanks to this novel programme, every year 1,000 newly-built or renovated buildings will become home to the work of a contemporary artist. As a result, millions of people, both occupants and visitors, will come into contact with and communicate with contemporary artists and their work. Ultimately, real estate developers are crucial to improving the ways in which we live together.

Are the constraints of real estate compatible with artistic freedoms?

LD: The success of the "One building, one artwork" charter proves that they are indeed compatible. Artists add real value, even for the most demanding and practical professions. Art encourages communication within companies and with their various partners. For example: in spite of their hectic schedules, our programme managers willingly set aside time for artistic creation, especially for visiting workshops.

Why does art matter to you?

LD: In my personal life, I am totally immersed in the art world. Artists give us a glimpse of the world of freedom. Sometimes the pressure of dealing with daily constraints, regulations and financial matters etc., deprives us of this freedom. Artists provide a vision that colours our way of working, in an original way. These artists also share their generosity and openness with our employees. 

Art and property are both integral components of our clients’ estates, inextricably linked with their private lives and personal histories. These two types of emotionally charged assets help us to deepen our understanding and identify long-term, tailored solutions for everyone. Mélanie Damani International Wealth Structuring and Art Services chez Edmond de Rothschild.

Nobody is indifferent to art. A building's occupants discuss, question and sometimes object to art works. But ultimately they appreciate the fact that we have devoted our attention to their living space. Art breathes a little more soul into real estate, and into our daily activity.

Which of your current projects particularly embody your aesthetic universe?

LD: Our residential development in Batignolles in Paris' 7th arrondissement is in perfect harmony with this approach. We have provided innovative architecture conceived by the highly talented Chinese architect Ma Yansong (of the firm MAD), working closely with the equally talented French architect Christian Biecher. This building, called Unic, comprises 85 apartments with balconies and gardens.

Its innovative and imaginative architecture means the apartments boast ceiling heights of 2.8m. In terms of artistic creation, we launched an international competition in partnership with the City of Paris and RATP for the design of the entrance to the new Pont Cardinet metro station within the building itself. The winner was German artist Tobias Rehberger. Hundreds of thousands of metro users will pass through his work every day.

Unic Project in Batignolles designed by MAD Architects.


Morland Mixité Capitale is an equally emblematic project, won as part of the "Reinventing Paris" competition launched by the Paris City Hall. The remit was clear: coming up with a new future for the former Paris prefecture in the 4th arrondissement. Working with architect David Chipperfield, we designed a multiple-use development that will combine shops, social housing, a nursery, offices, a hotel, a youth hostel, a sports centre and a food market, etc. In doing so, it became clear to us that the top two floors of the building should be a unique space accessible to the public and all Parisians. We asked Danish artist Olafur Eliasson to create a spectacular work for this space. I believe that bringing different cultures together is vital. In this instance, it is an excellent way of bringing Europe to life.

Morland Mixité Capitale project. View from Saint-Bernard quay.


Do you believe, like Inès Reinmann*, that the way we "use" property has been revolutionised?

LD: "Reinventing Paris" forms part of this revolution. The City of Paris described this competition as ‘ground-breaking’. A genuine revolution in the way we use buildings is indeed underway. In Batignolles, we had already created shared spaces and fostered a social mix. Housing can be extended or reduced as our requirements change over the course of our lives. We no longer design buildings without considering how the space will be shared. We are also in the early stages of an "intelligent use" trend, inspired by the Nudge method, as regards energy consumption and environmental protection. The occupants are involved in reducing energy consumption thanks to signals intended to encourage ecologically responsible behaviour.

* Read the interview with Inès Reinmann "How digitalisation is shaking up the real estate market"

Focus : The Révélations Emerige Grant, a support for young French artists

Caption of the exhibition “Empiristes”, 2016. Works by Bianca Bondi, Louis-Cyprien Rials and Raphaëlle Péria. Photo: Rebecca Fanuele


Each year, Emerige offers an up-and-coming French artist in the early stages of his/her career (below the age of 35) a solid platform in the art world. The Révélations Emerige Grant will help the artist to put on a first personal exhibition at an internationally renowned gallery in France and will provide support throughout the project, from providing a workshop and support for producing art works through to financing the exhibition itself.


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