Nicolas Foucrier

Head of Architecture and Heritage
La Samaritaine

My Métier d’Excellence  

I’m Head of Architecture and Heritage at La Samaritaine in Paris. My role is to ensure the quality of the restructuring operations at the department store. Concretely, this means I’m part of the project team that supervised renovation work until La Samaritaine reopened in  2021. The project manager identifies needs in order to establish the parameters of the renovation plan, then selects the architects, oversees studies and lastly supervises execution of the work. This is a very long-term process – I spent more than ten years on this amazing project.

What I love most about my métier  

Definitely the satisfaction of seeing the completion of my project after a good many years. It’s also very gratifying to see everything that you can accomplish over an extended period with a team when you work hard and in perfect harmony.

The most important things you need for this métier  

You need a lot of tenacity to stay focused. There are so many different issues and challenges that you have to avoid getting overwhelmed and identify priorities. That’s why you also need to have a clear overview of the entire project, coupled with rigorous professionalism, creativity, and a keen sense of detail. Because you need to dialogue with all the different stakeholders – architects, contractors, etc. – to find the best solutions for each situation.

My advice for someone starting out in this profession

Learn to listen, be curious and have a real desire to learn. Each project continually reinvents the métier because the challenges are always different and the solutions are thus never the same. Someone who’s just starting out might feel a bit lost in all this complexity. You need to be like a sponge and soak up as much as possible every day in order to progress and succeed in this profession.

An anecdote  

We completely restored a portion of the original buildings at La Samaritaine, which meant we had to determine the right colors to use to repaint all the elements being restored. During previous renovations, new coats of paint had been applied without necessarily respecting the original color. So we really had to do some investigative work and analyze photos from 1906 to understand the original color scheme, plus stratigraphic analyses, which involves inspecting all the layers of paint on existing structures. But despite all this research, we still couldn’t be 100% certain that the colors were right. We thus had to make a choice based on both an interpretation of the results from the analyses, and the ambiance we wanted for the refurbished department store. Because color is a key component in the quality of the space, this was a pivotal moment in the project and a very critical decision. And today, I’m completely happy with our choice.