Hugo Toro: “The future of travel? An intergalactic Orient-Express linking the earth to the moon!”

July 2021

Dream / Fantasize

The French architect and designer is behind Orient Express’ scenography at Samaritaine in Paris.

Born on the French-German border to a Mexican mother and a French father, architect and designer Hugo Toro (known for restaurants including La Scène, Perruche and Gigi Ramatuelle, the restaurant at Club Blanche…) has been traveling since he was born. From long-term stays in Mexico to slices of life in Vienna, Australia or California, he knows the world like the back of his hand and sketches his favorite memories of wandering in his notebooks. It was only natural for him to work on the scenography of the Orient Express corner at Samaritaine department store. That is, before leaving to travel the world for other projects.

High Life : What do you hate most about traveling?


Hugo Toro : Planning in advance! I like surprises and spontaneity, all the things that make up the essence of the trip and create the best memories.


HL : Are there any sounds from traveling that you like?


Hugo Toro : The sounds that mark the arrival in a hotel room. The opening of the curtains and the windows, the unzipping of the suitcase, the sheets being set out…


HL : Do you like to chat during the trip?


Hugo Toro : Not really. I’m more comfortable in my bubble. I always take a pair of headphones that I stick on my ears, and an iPad to work on a plan, draw a landscape or a caricature of a neighboring passenger, discretely of course.


HL : Is there one trip that has left a mark on your life forever?


Hugo Toro : Istanbul, without hesitation. The light of the city reflected on the water always creates a particular atmosphere. It’s a city at the crossroads of influences that I draw in my sketchbooks.


HL : Are you more train or plane?


Hugo Toro : Train, for sure. I love the sensation of gravity that you can feel, and the idea of being able to walk around while traveling, navigating from your seat to the bar car, seeing people’s faces and watching the landscapes outside passing by. I’m also obsessed with train stations and the mix of genres they generate. I got that from my grandfather who worked in the fuel business, from the depots that were always set up near the stations. I have long been a fan of model trains and have a competition electric train in our family home that entertains every generation.

HL : If you had to create the ultimate train car, which characters – dead or alive – would you invite on board?


Hugo Toro: The Little Mermaid, so that she can tell us what happens under the sea. The singer Florence Welch from the band Florence and The Machine. I don’t know her personally, but I’m convinced that her magic and her nostalgic, positive and modern vibes could entertain us. I would also ask Haroun Tazieff to come down from heaven and tell us about his breathtaking travels, and invite the Mexican painter Diego Rivera, also husband of Frida Kahlo, to spice up our conversations.


HL : What would you talk about?


Hugo Toro: We would inevitably find interesting subjects to discuss. With a little – or a lot of – Mezcal, we should be able to understand each other.


HL : Have you ever slept on a train?


Hugo Toro : Yes, to reach Sa Pa, from Hanoi, Vietnam. Despite the presence of bedbugs, the trip was nice. The travelers cooked on board and shared their recipes.


HL : The country of the 4th dimension where you would like to travel, would look like…?


Hugo Toro : A country where you could eat whatever you wanted. A country where you could choose your magical powers. I dream of being one of the X-Men, of flying or of being gifted with a magnetic force that would allow me to transform and bend metal.


HL : How do you imagine traveling in the future?


Hugo Toro: An emotional journey on the Orient Express, the Jules Verne version. A kind of intergalactic train, linking the Earth to the Moon!


HL : And what music would you listen to on board?


Hugo Toro: “When the rains begins to fall”, a song by Jermaine Jackson and Pia Zadora, a nod to traveling with my sister.

A Hugo Toro illustration of OE scenography at Samaritaine

The Orient Express scenography by Hugo Toro can be found on the first floor of  Samaritaine, 9 rue de la Monnaie, Paris 1er.

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