Biography of Odile Decq

French Architect for the 21st Century (b. 1955)

French female architect Odile Decq, April 2012, dark eye shadow, frizzed dark hair, red lipstick
French Architect Odile Decq in 2014. Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images for Prada (cropped)

Odile Decq (born July 18, 1955, in Laval, east of Brittany in France) and Benoît Cornette have been called architecture's first rock and roll couple. Attired in Gothic black, Decq's nontraditional personal appearance fit well with the couple's curious delight in architectural experimentation with space, metals, and glass. After Cornette was killed in a 1998 automobile accident, Decq continued their rebellious architecture and urban planning business.

On her own, Decq continues to win awards and commissions, proving to the world that she was always an equal partner and a talent in her own right. Plus she's kept the funky look and black attire all these years.

Decq earned a Diploma in Architecture from the Ecole d'Architecture de Paris-La Villette UP6 (1978) and a Diploma in Urbanism and Planning from Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris (1979). She practiced in Paris alone and then in 1985 in partnership with Benoît Cornette. After Cornette's death, Decq ran Odile Decq Benoît Cornette Architectes-Urbanistes (ODBC Architects) for the next 15 years, rebranding herself in 2013 as Studio Odile Decq.

Since 1992, Decq has maintained a relationship with Ecole Spéciale d'Architecture in Paris as a teacher and director. In 2014, Decq was not intimidated to launch a new school of architecture. Called Confluence Institute for Innovation and Creative Strategies in Architecture and located in Lyon, France, the architecture program is built around the intersection of five thematic fields: neurosciences, new technologies, social action, visual art, and physics.

The Confluence program, melding old and new topics of study, is a curriculum by and for the 21st century. "Confluence" is also an urban development project of Lyon, France, where the rivers Rhone and Saone join. Above and beyond all of the architecture designed and built by Odile Decq, the Confluence Institute may become her legacy.

Decq claims to have no particular influence or master, but she does appreciate architects and their works, including Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe. She says "...they were inventing what they called the 'free plan', and I was interested in this idea and how you pass through a plan without having different articulated space...." Particular buildings that have influenced her thinking include

"Sometimes I am just impressed by buildings, and I am jealous about ideas expressed through these structures."

Source of quotation: Odile Decq Interview, designboom, january 22, 2011 [Accessed July 14, 2013]

Selected Architecture:

In Her Own Words:

"I try to explain to young women that practicing architecture is really complicated and it's very hard, but it's possible. I discovered early on that to be an architect you have to have a little bit of talent and a maximum of determination and not focus on the complications."—A conversation with: Odile Decq, Architectural Record, June 2013, © 2013 McGraw Hill Financial. All Rights Reserved. [Accessed July 9, 2013]
"Architecture, in a certain sense, is a war. It's a tough profession where you always have to fight. You have to have great stamina. I kept going because I started working as a team with Benoît who helped, supported and pushed me to go my own way. He treated me as an equal, strengthened my own resolve to assert myself, follow my own inclination and be as I wanted to be. I also tell students and repeat at conferences that you need a good dose of recklessness to go down the road of architecture because if you are too aware of the difficulties the profession entails, you might never begin. You have to keep fighting but without really knowing what the fight is. Very often this recklessness is considered folly. That's wrong; it's pure recklessness – something that is socially acceptable for men, but not yet for women."—"Interview with Odile Decq" by Alessandra Orlandoni, The Plan Magazine, October 7 2005
[http://www.theplan.it/J/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=675%3Ainte%0Arvista-a-odile-decq-&Itemid=141&lang=en accessed July 14, 2013]
"...stay curious all your life. To discover, to think that the world is nourishing you, and not only architecture, but the world and society around you is nourishing you, so you have to be curious. You have to always be curious about what will happen in the world later, and to be hungry for life, and to enjoy even when it's hard work....you have to be able to take risks. I want you to be courageous. I want you to have ideas, to take a position...."—Odile Decq Interview, designboom, january 22, 2011 [Accessed July 14, 2013]

Learn More:

  • Odile Decq Benoît Cornette by Clare Melhuish, Phaidon, 1998
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  • Architecture in France by Philip Jodidio, 2006
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Additional Sources: Studio Odile Decq website at www.odiledecq.com/; RIBA International Fellows 2007 Citation, Odile Decq, RIBA website; "Odile Decq Benoît Cornette - ODBC : Architects" by adrian welch / isabelle lomholt at e-architect; ODILE DECQ, BENOIT CORNETTE, Architectes, Urbanistes, Euran Global Culture Networks; Designer Bio, Beijing International Design Triennial 2011 [Websites accessed July 14, 2013]