Once upon a time lived Eugenio…

It all started in 1929 when 40-year-old Italian stonemason Eugenio Gazzola left his native Emilia-Romagna in the north of Italy, accompanied by his son Giuseppe, 23, and his one-year-old grandson Vittorino. Carrying his trowel and level over his shoulder, he was looking to escape from the poverty of post-war Italy and hoped to find work on the other side of the Alps, in the City of Light. He initially worked as a rockwork artisan, creating finely crafted cement benches from the Jardin des Plantes to Vincennes.

Giuseppe, stone craftsman

At the tender age of 30, Giuseppe Gazzola set up shop as a craftsman, taking his 13-year-old son Vittorino as an apprentice. The war was not far off. Following that painful period, Giuseppe Gazzola went back to work, while Vittorino continued his training under the instructional of his father. In 1951, he married Denise, whose parents, originally from Corrèze in southern France, managed a café in the Paris neighborhood of La Villette: “L’Ami René.”

Vittorino, third-generation stone craftsman

The big day came on July 28, 1953: Vittorino officially became a craftsman. His name was listed in the trade register in 1957. In the context of post-war reconstruction and with the help of the “Fellowship of Wartime Companions,” where he made the acquaintance of the architect Joubert and the decorator Feuillasse, Vittorino enjoyed a period of exponential growth and soon employed a battalion of 70 to 100 workers.

A true workhorse and maestro of every construction site, Vittorino devoted every waking moment to his work, deftly assisted by his courageous and committed wife Denise, always there to lend a hand with daily business and to do the bookkeeping. The company, initially located in Bobigny, was transferred to a showroom at 143 Rue de Flandres in the 19th arrondissement of Paris. Materials were hoisted with a pulley system, scaffolding was made of wood, and Vittorino seized any opportunity to save money. Indeed, labor might have been cheap at the time, but the cost raw materials was exorbitant. Vittorino found the solution: recycling. Nothing was wasted, starting with nails, which were extracted and straightened for “second-hand” use.

From quality to acclaim

News of the quality of his work in the fields of stonecraft, tiling, restoration and marble masonry spread quickly. In 1956, Vittorino became both a French citizen and a major player in the sector. Vittorino Gazzola adopted the French name Victor with a single goal in mind: to be selected for the restoration of the offices of Finance Minister Valéry Giscard d’Estaing in the Louvre, at number 93 of the street of the same name. This painstaking task required taking apart the entire building, except for the frame, to bring it in line with contemporary standards. Victor Gazzola was decorated upon completing the job, and went on to complete a series of prestigious projects: Rue Croix des Petits-Champs, Schwob on Boulevard Haussmann, Rue Pergolèse, Rue Diderot, UCREPSA, Société de Gérance de Passy on Boulevard Delessert, Square de l’Alboni.

Victor Gazzola & Fils, genuine craftsmen

In 1972, as time started taking its toll on Victor, his son Laurent joined the company after studying dentistry and working for six months as an apprentice to a locksmith and stairway maker: a way to get by before joining up to help his father. Although Laurent had no real training in masonry, he learned the trade both at night school at Saint Lambert, where he studied quantity surveying, and on the ground, where Victor soon left him in charge. A jack of all trades, from drafting estimates to conducting site visits, and from administrative tasks to deliveries, Laurent Gazzola moved up the ladder with the support of his assistant quantity surveyor.

A few years later, in 1976, he was joined by Lionel, keen to abandon his medical studies. So began a new age, made official by the creation of the Victor Gazzola & Fils company in 1981, and defined by stunning projects secured thanks to the recognition of Alain Raynaud, the architect of great fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy. Lionel Gazzola carried out structural work in the headquarters of the fashion house to create a proper setting to receive American clients. Meanwhile, Laurent was plying his trade for Kenzo; starting with the creator’s home in the Bastille neighborhood, Victor Gazzola & Fils ended up as the contractor for the brand’s Paris boutiques.

Masonry as an art form

These “mission impossible” experiences helped Victor Gazzola & Fils earn the renown the company enjoys today. New restoration projects appeared one after another for townhouses and villas: Givenchy on Rue des Saints Pères, followed by Hôtel de Bauffremont on Rue de Grenelle. Officially recognized as a historic monument, this property once belonged to Marie-Antoinette and features a sundial composed of golden nails, installed by Prince Maeterlinck in the Versailles parquet flooring. Lionel also renovated the apartment of Jackie Kennedy, the estate of Valentino in Saint-Nom-la-Bretèche and the Palais de la Bourse, among many other buildings.

Successfully carrying out impossible projects and satisfying the wildest demands, Victor Gazzola & Fils gained momentum, further honed its expertise and delved into its passion without restraint, from arched staircases to curved walls and monumental entrance halls. Laurent focused on a clientele made up of prestigious boutiques; after Kenzo, he put his skills at the service of Christian Dior. Meanwhile, Lionel strove to bring to life the ambitious visions of the top names in Parisian society, in partnership with renowned architects and decorators.

The tradition of tomorrow

Victor Gazzola & Fils chose to mechanize logistics, thereby devoting full attention to its core business: superior mastery of behind-the-scenes skills, namely demolition with an eye to a complex, ambitious and rigorous reconstruction. In 1982, after the successful completion of the Rue de Grenelle project, Laurent and Lionel purchased a new warehouse, located on Rue des Gardinoux in Aubervilliers, at a candlelight auction. A former marble works, this old hanger, complete with a dirt field and an abandoned greenhouse, became the company’s showroom. Renovated and decorated with a black granite facade, the building was used in particular to house laser-equipped machines for cutting and processing marble. Five years later, Victor died suddenly at the young age of 59, worn out by years spent working at a frenetic pace.

Renewal

For Laurent, 1995 stood out for the renovation of the Dior boutique on Avenue Montaigne and the emergence of concept boutiques. He applied this new style from Dolce & Gabbana to Prada, not to mention Saint Laurent, Berluti and Moschino. The year was also memorable for a fanciful and thrilling project: creating an underground swimming pool in a townhouse. Victor Gazzola & Fils brought untold ingenuity to this initiative, supporting the entire building on stays, as if it were hanging from the durable threads of the company’s consummate expertise. 1995 was also a year of labor strikes. A difficult period for Laurent and Lionel: the warehouse was relocated to Quai Lucien Lefranc, on the banks of the Canal de l’Ourcq, and they were compelled to restructure the business.

This period also witnessed the return of their mother, Denise. Having retired from the company, she made a dramatic comeback to support her sons and preserve the family spirit so dear to Victor Gazzola & Fils. Dynamic and maternal, Denise ensured that the company remained true to its DNA. Gentle yet firm, she displayed both vigilance and altruism.

GMT

1998 saw the creation of GMT and the start of a successful partnership between Laurent Gazzola and Agostino Mainardi. 2008 was a triumphant year for Laurent Gazzola as he successfully carried out a monumental project for Roberto Cavalli: merging two buildings into one harmonious and imposing structure, striking for its luxurious and elegant character.

Passing the torch

In 2011, Romain, Julien’s cousin, fell under the Gazzola spell. Putting his law degree aside, he joined the family business.  Working in Lionel’s shadow, he completed his first projects for Guerlain and for the decorator Jacques Garcia. He also plied his new trade for restaurant owner Jean-François Piège in 2015. This unique experience saw him mold made-to-measure faux-bois boards to create a decorative wall… made of concrete, a loving nod to his great grandfather’s work as a rockwork artisan!

After 42 years of collaboration in the service of GMT, the Gazzola brothers Laurent and Lionel stepped aside, passing the torch to the younger generation. The duo of Romain and Julien took the helm of the company in 2014, firmly driving the company onward into the 21st century. As always, business continued under the bright and vigilant gaze of Denise, guardian of the company’s values until 2016.

Passionate and demanding, Romain and Julien have the exacting expertise of a family immersed in the construction sector for nearly 90 years. Their ambition: sustain and enhance the expertise they inherited, while focusing on the essential: their vocation as fifth-generation stonemasons.

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FIVE GENERATIONS OF PASSION, INNOVATION AND THE HIGHEST STANDARDS

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