An entry through gestures and notions of new transformations: open shelters


Operational notions at the crossroads of thought and doing

As much in its formal dimension as in the stories that accompany its development, architecture frequently uses concepts in a resolutely operational dimension. These are mobilized at the articulation of the analysis and creation processes and allow the very substance of the project to be lifted. They crystallize states of fact, possibilities, from terms that simultaneously engage an imaginative, narrative and material process around a physical scenario of the transformation of places.

This project material emerges out of the contingencies of “context-milieu” – the encounter between the constraints imposed by both schedules and backers, by a theoretical toolbox, an architectural culture, the evaluation of a site, and the recognition of percepts, engenders institutions, announcements, and formalisations which expand non-hierarchically. Instead, they take on a structure by simultaneously explaining themselves and defining themselves within a process of invention (or of individuation, as Gilles Simondon would say). By this process, new mechanisms realise their potential, while their consciously formed formulations make them easier to share, to evaluate and to amend.

These operative concepts are not only useful as far as their intelligible resources are concerned, but also as tools possessing operative capacities. As Paola Virgano has shown, this theoretical know-how is in a constant back and forth with the descriptive and predictive skills that are put to use in the act of conceiving. They rest perched over the point where things become blended, often intervening with a thought-image, “a consciousness that is born through drawing”. . As a theoretical activity, it is connected as closely as possible to conception, enriching consciousness through its own activity. This motion allows us to respond to the same question which it poses, all the while reformulating it with graphical and modelling instruments, whose nature is to put new statements and imaginaries, relating to installation, back into question. Each project stretches forward like all those stories yet to be told and shapes yet to be encountered. From within these mental and practical project spaces, in the workshop of prefiguration, a minimum of philosophical expertise helps to combine the world of forms with the world of ideas. This alone allows us to perform preliminary assessments for future built environments.

1 – Paola Vigano, Urban planning territories: the project as a constructor of knowledge, Metispress.
2 – This expression of the Norwegian architect Sver Fehn, is reported by his compatriot Christian Norberg-Schulz, in the preface of the book The Art of the Place.

Transformation gestures, challenges and operators of open shelters

The transformation gestures presented below are also tools to clarify the process of shaping open shelters.

Architecture is an art of linking: it offers contacts, framing, orientations, distancing, synergies, measured confrontation, erasures, safety, vis-à-vis, …

The process of invention is a plural fabric which, in fact, makes up several gestures, sometimes contradictory, sometimes associated. They engage, echoing the work of Edgar Morin, a dialogic thought with the reality of sites and societies.

The projects presented here and the actions that make them up, aim mainly at prevention. These are preliminary actions, precautionary attitudes which are always less expensive than the cost of post-disaster repair. But They call for a proactive culture of transition, which takes control of the calendar so as not to wait for the cataclysms to lead the dance and impose beyond the dramas, emergency situations in which it is difficult to think quietly and to act effectively.

Taking into account the real risks presented by the increase in hazards, engages in the process of architectural invention a multidisciplinary work of investigation which is not presented here in its entirety, but turns out to be absolutely necessary. Knowledge of the concrete reality of moving elements, their own physics, their dynamics, their reactivity is essential. They open architecture to fruitful companionship with life and earth sciences and agile engineering with which to share invention.

In the project process, these hazards are not only categories of threats, they are also establishing realities. Soil, air, water, fire, forest, are also the constituent materials of ecosystems. They participate in the underlying framework on which the habitability of ecosystems is based, anchoring this architectural approach in the scale issues emblematic of the Anthopocene.

But let us insist strongly: the possibilities of adjustment in question do not have a geoengineering dimension: they are, each time, contextual.

The hazards force architecture and town planning to dialogue with the moving. It is a question of composing with rhythms, amplitudes, fluctuations, which have stood outside of architecture as a horizon of stability, immobility, immutability. To establish new consultations, because the chair does not consider that the separation of human settlements from the natural horizon is a good thing.

The memory of disasters, and the presence of the threat force us to regard these elements as active. Over the decades, technical mastery has reinforced the feeling of separation and domination of natural forces. But the facts are there. The geographical framework has not disappeared, it still constitutes an underlying reference point, a matrix, a dominant reference point. The climatic disturbances of the Earth system strongly re-engage them and we must once again come to terms with them.

In the context of these school projects, these borderline situations are so many areas of experimentation.

To end this introduction, let us mention that these gestures are also declined as games based on dimensions, as intentions in point, line, surface, mediums, seasons,

  • By the meeting point between a hazard and a place, very concrete point of contact between water, air, solid, fire.
    It particularly expresses the sensory register specific to each hazard.
  • The line (longitudinal, transverse or vertical) of the amplitude and the perception of the movement which takes place there
  • The occupancy surface and the necessary recomposition of its uses, as a meeting between housing, economy, culture, urbanity
  • The environment of encountered existences and their perennialities with questions of vitality, health, and its new aesthetic and sensitive readings, spiritual.
  • The variations in time (seasons, equinoxes, day and night, cycle of the moon and the earth, etc.) and the rhythmic weaving thus determined