Mr. François de Menil
François de Menil, Architect, P.C.
Born in Houston Texas the fourth child of Dominique and John de Menil, François moved to New York at the age of seven. He graduated from the Horace Mann School and went to Columbia University where he stayed for a year before taking an academic leave of absence to learn filmmaking. He purchased a 16mm camera and taught himself the fundamentals of filmmaking. In 1966 he met artists Jean Tinguely and Niki de St. Phalle in Paris. His first film was a short film on the destruction of the “Hon” a temporary collaborative sculptural work of Tinguely and St. Phalle’s with the Swedish artist, Per Olof Ultvedt in the Moderna Museet in Stockholm. The film was later shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and is one of the only film records of that early collaborative work of the two artists. Over the next fifteen years de Menil continued to film Tinguely and St. Phalle and made half hour films on each (“Tinguely-A Kinetic Cosmos” and” Niki”).
Other films of Mr. de Menil include an hour length documentary on the sculptor Mark di Suvero with author and art critic Barbara Rose which was aired on the Boston PBS station WGBS. With Academy Award documentary filmmaker Howard Smith he produced the comedy, “Gizmo,” a compilation of newsreel clips of zany inventors, which celebrated America’s restless inventive spirit. With producer Hanna Weinstein de Menil developed and associate produced, “Stir Crazy,” the comedy with Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor and directed by Sidney Poitiers.
In 1983 Mr. de Menil returned to college to study architecture at the Cooper Union. He graduated in 1987 and worked in the firms of Kohn, Pedersen, Fox Architects and Nagel and Lesser Architects.
François de Menil established his architecture practice in 1991. Over the years the firm has provided architectural and interior design services for a variety of institutional, residential, retail and corporate office projects.
François de Menil’s architecture examines issues of social, historical and cultural context and transforms this research into a specific narrative related to the client, the site and the program presented. From this synthesis emerges a signature concept that informs the tectonics. From houses to institutional spaces to offices and retail shops, his work explores issues relating to how one lives, how one works and how one experiences the spirituality of life. The work exhibits innovative interpretations of programs capturing the project’s essence, reflecting its occupants, and harmonizing with its site.
Numerous examples of this strategy pervade de Menil’s work. A client’s expertise in the use of shorthand, a form of speed writing, inspired its use as a conceptual model for translating the spatial diversity of a large residence into a more condensed expression. The pattern of the woven leather goods for which a European luxury leather goods company is famous informed the design for a number of retail shops in America and Japan. The office design for a corporate culture undergoing a transformation from hierarchical organization to open team environment focused on defining individual privacy needs, inspiring the design for a series of team desks with mobile pedestals. François de Menil’s innovative interpretation of the Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum program demonstrates his poetic analysis of traditional architecture and its transposition to a modernist context through the invocation of a reliquary box coupled with a material as well as spiritual inversion of body and soul.
Mr. de Menil is a member of the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects and a LEED Accredited Professional. He is a registered architect in three states and certified by the National Council of Architectural Review Boards. François de Menil is a board member of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art and recently chaired that institution’s search for a new president. Additionally he is a member of the board of the Brearley School in New York. He resides in New York City with his wife, Susan, and their children.