7 Questions about Mob Hotel
Interview with Cyril Aouizerate
1/Why did you choose to open MOB HOUSE 100 metres from the MOB HOTEL you opened in 2017 in Saint Ouen?
There is always a smaller story hidden behind the big story… When I returned from Brooklyn in 2015, the city where the first MOB restaurant came into being, I immediately looked for its equivalent in the Greater Paris area. My wanderings quickly led me to Saint Ouen, a region of cultural diversity where social ecology, the MOB’s primary value, has fully asserted itself with its 150 years of flea market history. This was a district that had already sought answers to the problems of overconsumption and which, as accidental visionaries, anticipated the whole recycling movement by giving objects a second lease of life rather than throwing them away. Saint Ouen is, in our opinion, the ideal region for inaugurating the social ecology specific to the MOB movement. So we logically decided to make it our headquarters. Like everything urban, and even more so during the COVID crisis, the need for space is what drives us. In my opinion, this is a new definition of luxury for the “Co” generations who are Coliving, Coworking, and Carpooling, where space sharing is becoming standard for the sake of economy and simplicity.
MOBs, whether they are MOB HOTEL or MOB HOUSE, are always created based on large outdoor spaces. This is a non-negotiable imperative for us. So it was, during a weekend in Les Puces, I fell under the spell of the largest private landscaped garden in Saint Ouen. We could glean an idea of its full impact through the tiny gate. It immediately seemed evident that it would be great if we could open it up to the public, so I bought it with my friend and lifelong associate Michel Reybier, and soon it was to become the MOB HOUSE.
The reason our two projects, MOB HOTEL and MOB HOUSE, are being built a few metres from each other is because they are jointly helping to write a single novel together, with social ecology as the foundation. This public, grassroots, democratic and unifying version of the MOB HOTEL is open to its neighbourhood, residents and individuals who are involved in a project. The MOB HOUSE itself is particularly appealing to nomadic workers with its 3-in-1 rooms especially. In the same vast space, an entrepreneur obviously benefits from a bedroom, an office and a meeting room. MOB HOUSE is a service for making workers’ lives easier.
Going from ideas to reality is always a perilous exercise. So, without any hesitation, I entrusted the artistic vision of the place to my friend and associate Philippe Starck.
2/As soon as you enter MOB HOUSE, how is the centrality of work reflected?
The overall tone of the place is set by the workers’ table, which is a large guest table that is particularly appreciated by entrepreneurs from the local Saint-Ouen community. MOB HOUSE unites the skills of 20 nomadic workers here by offering them a seat in residence over the year. It is a place for production, intellectual stimulation and the sharing of knowledge. In order to develop synergies, the MOB HOUSE is planning an in-depth programme of interviews about the most diverse themes which can be found online in the form of podcasts. We are not expecting a large number of participants, far from it in fact. The magic of sharing this is conveyed through a kind of exclusivity that is valuable to entrepreneurial development.
Next, we have the reception where there are several sofas and coffee tables for business meetings. There is also “the conspirators’ table”, which we also like to call “the Politburo”, where a dozen people can meet, discuss and take action. L
ast but not least, the work boutique is a homage to nomadic professions, from architects, creatives and writers to those in the digital sphere of course.
In short, the MOB HOUSE is designed to be a place of production where people drop in, work, hold meetings and meet new people.
3/Does this mean that all people do is work at MOB HOUSE?
While work acts as a backdrop, just as social ecology is the keystone of the MOB movement, the MOB HOUSE embodies a new vision of the hotel industry. People work there, they sleep there and they eat there, but we’ve also included a few more poetic or deliberately obscure detours along the way…
The bar is a perfect illustration of this. It’s a bar entirely made of golden brass, a genuinely ironic nod to the piling up of material wealth. Far be it from us to treat everything with derision. But on the other hand, we’re fully owning the desire to distance yourself a little sometimes by cultivating this very French taste for irony…
So in the seminar rooms there’s an exhibit for all to see and to get everybody inspired, including the work “Le droit la paresse” (The Right to Be Lazy) by Paul Lafargue, a painting by Gaspard Delano entitled “Ne travaillez jamais” (Never Work), and even Marx’s “Communist Manifesto”. With this, the MOB HOUSE is depicting a new vision of capital and production of wealth with regard to environmental concerns, whose resources we all know are limited. The MOB HOUSE considers the question of material capital in relation to the symbolic capital that is time. It poses the question of spatiality with spaces that transform over one and the same day, then develops the cultural question with engaged, edgy books and cutting-edge lectures. The MOB HOUSE thus attempts to create a new dialectic between space and time!
4/What is the food like there?
Restaurant means restoring yourself/providing food… so we mean this in both the literal and figurative sense.
At “Feuille de Chou”, the MOB HOUSE’s French organic brasserie, all the food is organic, just like at every MOB. It is also soon to receive an Organic Farming certificate, just like the other restaurants in our MOB HOTELs. Here, you see our ecological approach on the plate with local sourcing from organic farmers and market gardeners who meet our own strict standards. The menu is obviously seasonal with two seasons now predominantly, which are spring/summer and autumn/winter under the effect of climate change. Last but not least, its identity is characterised by French tradition, echoing my friend and the Chef who inspired the menu, Jerome Banctel, with a focus on the ingredients and produce.
This is where we draw on traditional know-how to create light, gourmet and healthy food with lots of benefits.
The French are known for their cuisine around the world; it’s part of the universal vision of France. There is also a deliberately marked Parisian feel with items like croques monsieur or croques madames (different versions of eggy bread sandwiches), which are real signature dishes at the bar.
While we insist on everything being organic food, we also have other firm convictions which you may not notice immediately. For example our fish is sourced reasonably and responsibly. We source cyclically, so what we offer changes with the breeding seasons. As craftsmen and entrepreneurs, we must shoulder our responsibilities too. We feel that French cuisine offers us enough opportunities to really think about what the food of tomorrow should be.
5/We love the fact you have the largest private mature garden in Saint Ouen… Can you tell us about it?
The issue of outdoor spaces still predominates at MOB and has become our own definition of luxury. The MOB HOUSE is therefore based and built around a mature garden, whose importance is evident through our choice to maximise the balconies overlooking this green space. The trees have been preserved, as has the original architecture of the place which is hilly and uneven. We simply added a 20-metre-long swimming pool, reserved for hotel guests.
Most of the common areas are right on the outside: from the organic restaurant to the gym, including the conversation room, which itself has a patio. The staff room also overlooks this patio. The idea was to ensure our residents, travellers and workers could benefit as much as possible from this space.
6/MOB HOUSE: can you sleep there too?
The primary purpose of our profession remains hospitality. Also, if you consider the new forms of travel, we are all guardians of the temple of restful sleep.
It was with this in mind that we took a lot of care when thinking out all the details for the rooms. It wasn’t done with a purely decorative approach, but was based on what was essential. So as well as palace beds, we used natural materials, which we know have a direct impact on our perception of well-being. Our reptilian brain reacts to natural materials directly sourced from the earth and a feeling of calm then envelops us. So we used a straw and clay slip for the walls, where you can still see some of the strands. It is an excellent thermal regulator, has a low carbon impact and doesn’t release any volatile organic compounds.
In this room, you will also find solid oak flooring (which is French obviously), Beaujolais ceramics, which are magnificently imperfect since they are artisanal, marble and concrete. Because concrete is indeed a natural material!
We have therefore come up with rooms that are virtuous in their relationship to the environment, and where you can sleep, work and receive guests. Because social ecology is part of everything at MOB!
7/Cyril Aouizerate, you define yourself as an artisan hotelier, can you tell us more about that?
If you think about the very definition of being an artisan, then you’re thinking of something independent and crafted uniquely. We’re an indie company, MOB is not a chain and doesn’t mass produce any of its creations. So we specifically always start our projects from a blank slate, taking the time to understand the urban, social and cultural environment we are going to be part of. Whether you’re looking at Saint Ouen (MOB’s headquarters), the Lyon Confluence and soon Brazza, in a former industrial wasteland in Bordeaux. This approach obviously takes time. It usually takes no less than three years on average to finish a new project.
Being artisanal also means we want to work with people who, like us, stand for the same values and appreciate expertise. So just to give you an illustration, the MOB HOUSE involved a tremendous amount of craftsmanship. From the bar, which was hand forged, to the rooms with their huge wooden trunks, to the shower doors and, once again, the Beaujolais ceramics. We only work with family businesses which are mostly French or European that we already know or have discovered. They’re craftspeople who, like us, are working actively to preserve local know-how. Last but not least, being an artisan also means knowing how to keep an ear out and plan for new paradigms. This is the very purpose of the work started by MOB based on the central subject of social ecology…
But craftsmanship is also a form of luxury. Because true luxury, in an age where everyone wants everything delivered to their door in one click, is taking your time.