Home>Student profile: Marion Waller


Student profile: Marion Waller


Graduate of the Master Governing the Large Metropolis, Marion Waller is the director of the Pavillon de l'Arsenal (Paris). Milena Larue conducted this interview for the association In Situ.

Hello Marion, could you first talk about your academic background and the motivations that led you to the GLM Master?

I initially pursued a dual program in political science and philosophy at Sciences Po Paris / Paris IV, during which I attended an introductory course in urban planning with Delphine Papin in my second year. I loved this course, and it sparked my interest in urban studies. During my third year in the Philippines, I had the opportunity to explore urban studies, which confirmed my desire to work in major cities and led me to join the GLM Master at the Urban School. At the same time, I continued philosophy in a Master's program between ENS and EHESS which was important to me.

What were the most valuable lessons from the Master?

Over time, I discovered how much the Master had influenced and shaped me, especially regarding the richness of the comparative approach, which, for me, became self-evident, while in the French professional context, it is far from being so. In my current work, I still have the reflex to ask how other cities do it. It is also a rather theoretical Master, and there are concepts that I liked, and that left an impression on me, such as "implementation" or the theorization of public policies with terms like "cross-coalition." I also did a capstone project with APUR that allowed me to work on Paris for the first time.

One of the questions that interest students the most: Where did you do your final internship, how did you find it, and what did you learn?

From the first year of GLM, I started working for the municipal campaign as a volunteer, and subsequently, I was hired at the Ville de Paris even before completing my Master's. I took a gap year during which I met my M2 in philosophy and worked simultaneously at the Ville de Paris. Therefore, my final internship was advising the Deputy Mayor in urban planning, attractiveness, and the Greater Paris area. The most important thing for me was to map out and build my career to explore other places while preserving my deep motivations and what pleased me.

What were your other roles from entering the ville de paris until your position as Director of the Pavillon de l'Arsenal?

I was initially an Advisor and then Deputy Director of the Cabinet, working from the beginning on Reinvent Paris. This allowed me to follow a project from start to finish, master it in all aspects, and progress quickly. I stayed for six years, the entire term, which is quite long. In 2020, I joined the Mayor's office in architecture, heritage, public spaces, and funeral affairs. It was pretty different, as in an assistant's office, we were there to develop urban planning projects and negotiate with other deputies and partners. In contrast, in the Mayor's office, it's more about regulation and information flow between the Mayor, deputies, district mayors, and external individuals with different interests. I stayed there for three years. At the end of this journey, when I felt I had the maturity to lead a structure and initiate projects, the Board of Directors of the Pavillon de l'Arsenal appointed me. It was the culmination of a journey where I learned about Paris and its entire ecosystem. It allowed me to arrive at this position confidently, knowing the actors in place and the tools to launch projects.

You had a political commitment but also had strong ecological convictions; were you working for the municipality, believing in the power of cities to initiate and guide transitions?

I have always been in the Ville de Paris’s office; it was a choice on my part to be able to initiate public policies and be in the place where we think about how to talk about projects and how to connect architects, the public, and journalists. I strongly believe in the power of cities to make a difference; I believe in urban planning; I believe in specific public policies for significant towns, and I believe that Paris has been an exciting experimentation ground for this. It is a conviction that I try to continue at the Pavillon de l'Arsenal to show how cities can dialogue with each other and find common solutions. For example, we are launching a series of European conversations to promote dialogue between major European cities that must use their political and economic power and symbols to launch and drive the transition.

What are your projects within the Pavillon de l'Arsenal?

I want to show that it is a place where we can still transform the city, and it is not won; it is a cultural battle. I want to leave room for creativity for architects, urban planners, and landscapers, show how things are done well and concretely, and how we involve the public. My projects are also related to the fact that the Pavillon will be under construction for two years, and we will be off-site. These are constraints but opportunities for us to metropolitanize, to take our audience to places in Greater Paris. In terms of scales, what interests me is metropolitanization and internationalization. I also try to stretch each exhibition in all directions, make an exhibition a subject that engages us as an institution, and propose a rich associated program with urban walks and meetings with stakeholders, for example. In parallel with exhibitions, I also want us to continue producing thought as a research center, primarily through our FAIRE project call for proposals, where we select architects', students', and designers' projects each year to better support them.

Finally, do you have any advice for students?

I would say that you must follow your passions and singularities. It's hard when you're a student to know what you want. Hence, holding onto values and projects that drive us is essential. When something interests us, we must go for it, cultivate our curiosity, and follow our intuitions. That's how we meet people who resonate with us and with whom we can work and flourish.