The French pavilion at the 2021 Venice Biennale, “aims to reflect on the meeting between architectural know-how and the inhabitants’ own experiences of their living spaces”. Curated by Christophe Hutin, the intervention entitled “Communities at Work” will provide an immersive experience with the help of images in motion. Using five specific case studies on different continents: in Europe, Asia, America, and Africa, the exhibition presents a journey into a world where communities transformations their own living spaces, without following any formal schemes designed by an architect.
Explaining that “this transversal approach to the profession is an attempt to shed light on the implications of architecture in a contemporary world subject to massive changes”, Hutin presents documentaries on communities at work in the transformation of their daily environments, in France, and throughout the world: in Johannesburg, Bordeaux, Detroit, Mérignac, Hanoi…
Improvisation is used as a possibility to transform living environments, considered here as “Works in Progress”. Through their actions, the communities at work appropriate their environments, thereby creating common spaces where the management of their living spaces is open to debate. Faced with human and material waste, we propose a change of perspective on life that already exists everywhere, and the means for a discerning, precise and delicate strategy to enhance it. -- Christophe Hutin.
Related Article11 Must-See Exhibitions at the 2018 Venice Biennale
In an attempt to highlight “the most relevant resources to transform lived environments […] using a bottom-up approach”, Christophe Hutin opts for the immaterial dimension of images in motion to create an immersive experience and transcend the neo-classical architecture of the French Pavilion. The multitude of documents projected in each room will stimulate the active interpretation of each spectator. The exhibited films are triptychs, in reference to painting, but also to the film “Napoleon” by Abel Gance, from 1927. These video triptychs offer a new vision of spaces and places.
The intervention on the Pavilion will be minimal, with the projections being set up according to a video-mapping technique that makes use of the surface particularities of the space. The central space will be renamed “Tout-Monde” (“Whole World”) and will be used to host events. In addition, the scenography of the exhibition will reuse the elements of the Japanese Pavilion from the previous art biennale. The totality of built elements will be reused in situ and the furniture will be made up of adaptation devices for the Acqua Alta, which will subsequently be donated to manage these climate events in Venice.
Each visit will be a unique experience and the multitude of documents projected in each room should stimulate the active interpretation of each spectator. We suggest moving from projection to projection, as from world to world, with no predetermined path, with no expected resemblance. The spectator makes the connections, produces the meaning, makes up the knowledge, and forms their interpretation.
Asking “How do they live together, and which spatial contracts do they imply?” the French pavilion draws lessons from these different case studies to develop a critical point of view on the ways in which we live together. Discover below the Case Studies highlighted during the “Communities at Work” exhibition.
This project, carried out by the team made up of Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal(leading architects), Frédéric Druot, and Christophe Hutin (associated architects) won the Mies van der Rohe European Union Prize for architecture in 2019.
JOHANNESBURG, SOWETO - South Africa: the interventions of the “Learning From” workshop
The “Learning From” workshops – Christophe Hutin and Daniel Estevez – take place internationally and propose an intercultural dialogue on reciprocity and the ability of each context to teach us about the singularity of all architecture.
MÉRIGNAC – France: The temporary settlement of Beutre
Two emergency settlements were built in Beutre in 1968 and 1970 to house repatriates, “migrant workers”, and to accommodate residents that urban renovation had excluded from the center of Bordeaux. From being temporary and rudimentary, the settlements became permanent. To live there, or rather to survive, tenants transcended their status of precarious occupants and took control of the improvement of their living conditions.
HANOI – Vietnam: Vernacular extensions of KTT apartment buildings
From 1954, after Vietnamese independence, the Collectivist State began to resolve the housing crisis with the urban planning of collective housing neighborhoods, KTTs, “Khu Tập Thể”. Over time, extension work on individual or familial initiatives was carried out on a case-by-case basis to respond to evolving daily needs.
SOWETO- South Africa: The Sans Souci Cinema Construction Site
JOHANNESBURG- South Africa: Florence House
SOWETO- South Africa: The Sky Orphanage Project
DETROIT, United States: Resilience at work
Christophe Hutin set up his architecture studio in 2003 in Bordeaux. He is an architect, a researcher at the École architecture in Toulouse, and a senior lecturer at the École architecture in Bordeaux. He studied and documented the townships of Soweto near Johannesburg and developed renowned expertise in housing and habitats. As the founder and coordinator of the Eunic Studio in Johannesburg (2008-2010), he co-founded the “Learning From” workshop, editions of which have taken place in Detroit, Soweto, and Uzeste. He is the author of “L’enseignement de Soweto”, published by Actes Sud in 2009.
Specialized in sustainable architecture based on the economy of construction, he has carried out a number of projects in the housing field, but also in the field of cultural facilities. Together with the architects Anne Lacaton, Jean-Phillippe Vassal and Frédéric Druot, he won the Mies van der Rohe Award 2019, for the transformation of 530 social housing apartments in the Cité du Grand Parc in Bordeaux. Christophe Hutin is also a director of short films, a scenographer, and an exhibition curator. His photographic work was exhibited at the Recontres d’Arles in 2010.
Daniel Estevez is an architect, engineer, and professor/supervisor at ENSA in Toulouse. He is currently supervising several doctoral theses on the development of architectural design tools in the face of the current ecological, political and social emergency. He has written several books on contemporary forms of informal design in architecture. In 1990, his architect’s diploma focused on the contributions of artificial intelligence to design processes in architecture.
Inspired by the works of Christopher Alexander, Noam Chomsky, and Seymour Pappert, he pursued this research for his engineer’s diploma in 1995, and then in a first report in 2001, published by the Éditions du CNRS. In parallel, his numerous collaborations with the art world also inspired him to develop critical research on formalisms at work in the field of architecture and its teaching. In 2010, he founded the Masters workshop “Learning From” with Christophe Hutin at ENSA in Toulouse. It was in this space of experimentation that the two researchers began to test, through action, the pragmatic and emancipatory hypotheses of a pedagogy of informal design in architecture.
Tiphaine Abenia is a structural engineer (Institut National des Sciences Appliquées in Toulouse, 2011), an architect (École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture in Toulouse, 2013), and a Doctor of architecture (Université de Montréal and Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès, 2019). She teaches construction (ENSA Toulouse) and the project of architecture (ENSA Toulouse and the École Polytechnique Fédérale in Lausanne). Her research interests include open tools for representation and design that accompany the transformation of built environments over time. Her doctoral thesis, entitled “Architecture Potentielle de la Grande Structure Abandonnée. Catégorisation et Projection”, identified the limits of the conventional methods of projection in architecture.