Muz Yer, a permanent public exhibition in Rennes, France, has invited 8 internationally-renowned architects to design birdhouses that highlight the relationship between contemporary architecture and nature. Each birdhouse serves as a response to one or more of the 13 bird species designated by the Birds Protection Committee (Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux - LPO), and raises awareness of the architectural heritage of Rennes and its urban ecology. The list of exhibitors includes Julien De Smedt Architects, ADEPT, a/LTA, Duncan Lewis, Marion Normand, Kengo Kuma & Associates, Tham & Videgard, and Dominique Perrault Architects & Gaëlle Lauriot-Prévost Design.
The exhibition aims to provide answers to global questions such as "how to design architecture today to meet future needs? What new uses to improve our living environment and promote living together? Faced with social, economic and ecological challenges, how to design the cities and landscapes of tomorrow?" The installations are displayed across an 8 km route of public spaces in Rennes, crossing the city from the North-East to the South-West on territories that have been recently transformed to highlight new architectural ambitions.
Read on to discover 7 of these 8 installations and the story behind their design.
The Bat Mansion by Julien De Smedt Architects
The project is located in Parc des Gayeulles, near lakes and forests. Instead of building a house for birds, JDSA decided to tackle the "unloved" species: the bat. In this particular area, the natural environments for bats to nest and shelter are limited, although they play an important role in the functioning of the ecosystem. The design of the bat house follows extensive research into the nesting needs of these mammals; they need a landing area from which they can climb, usually on rough wood. Once in place at height, they are able to migrate from one cell to another, depending on space and temperature.
By placing the project in the middle of the André Malraux Square basin, the installation is naturally protected from predators by the water. This location allowed the architects to free themselves from constraints of height while giving them the possibility of creating a true interaction between the birds and the water. Rather than trying to imagine a nesting box within a shape, the firm chose to imagine shapes with nesting boxes. By stacking and juxtaposing the optimal volumes of each species, they were able to create various typologies by their forms, their heights, and their openings. Each of the nesting boxes houses a particular species, and performs a specific function on the pond. Instead of being isolated from each other, the typologies are grouped together to create a central void common to all the inhabitants of the volume.
Georges Star by a/LTA
Georges Star is both a reduction and an adaptation of the iconic L'Etoile, a university restaurant on the Beaulieu campus built by architect Georges Maillols in 1963. As explained by the team, its shape, treatment, and color make it a "sophisticated yet paradoxical" object. Its blue color is the RAL 7016 used for motorway signs. The monochrome, faceted object is installed on a pole six meters high, and creates a reference to the neighborhood with its large advertising panels located in the vicinity on boulevard d'Armorique.
Wild & Raw by Duncan Lewis
Installed on a large eucalyptus tree on the St. Martin Prairies, Wild and Raw consists of three large ovoid structures made of straw, inspired by nests woven by specific birds in Africa. One of the main inspirations behind the approach was Architecture Without Architects (1964) by Bernard Rudofsky. Rudofsky developed the idea of an architecture designed by its users, and for the architect, this was the direction in which the world must look at today, reconciling man and his context, to bring them together. The architect also looked at the weaver birds from South Africa which make collective shelters by weaving all sorts of natural materials and manufactured scraps like electrical wires. Their nests take on the appearance of outgrowths that reveal the ingenuity and the capacity of adaptation of these birds.
Skyline by Marion Normand
The installation consists of 30 granite nesting units located on the southwest wall of an architecture school. This materiality, which is Bleu de Lanhélin produced by local craftsmen, was chosen mainly for its durability, as it will last long enough to find its place within the landscape and blend with the wall of the school. The installation seeks to reproduce the skyline of a city but on a reduced scale. It includes five types of nesting boxes spaced out by interstices. Each one abides by the criteria given by the LPO, such as the diameter of the holes and the overall dimensions depending on each species.
Dancing Forest by Kengo Kuma and Associates
The shape and the implementation of this birdhouse aims to welcome the local species of the river banks. According to the architect, "the role of architecture is to integrate these elements to bring us closer to nature and facilitate its and facilitate its perception. If we build well, we can feel nature even in the dense city". The installation is a composition that expresses the idea of movement which is organically present in natural. The architect also explored the traditional Japanese technique called "Yakisugi" (burnt cedar) as it protects and sustains the wood by burning its surface instead of treating it chemically. The assembly of the wood pieces is based on the principle of "tensegrity". The thin material acts in tension while the thicker material in compression. This distribution of forces balances the structure. As in the Japanese tradition, this method of construction uses thin pieces of wood, which generates an effect of transparency and lightness.
Y’oiseau by Dominique Perrault Architect & Gaëlle Lauriot-Prévost Design
12 poles are placed on a small clearing in front of the hall of ZAC de la Courrouze, in the southwestern side of Rennes. The poles compose a small forest, a set of fine flexible elements that glitter and sway in the wind. Dominique Perrault and Gaëlle Lauriot-Prévost have imagined a lively installation with several artistic references to conceptual and minimal art, kinetic mobiles, and musical sculptures. The birdhouse presents a very simple design, created from perennial materials, stainless steel, and glazed ceramic.
Muz Yer is a project initiated and developed by Gwénaël Le Chapelain, architect associated with the a/LTA agency and President of the MG endowment fund. The MG endowment fund is a non-profit organization that focuses on the development and dissemination of architectural and artistic practice. The Rennes-based organization promotes cultural projects at the crossroads of art and architecture by providing research, creation, organization of events, editing and publication of works, development of communication, dissemination, and awareness-raising tools and actions. As a priority, it develops projects that promote the Breton territory, without limiting itself to this geographical framework.
An exhibition of sketches and models made by the eight architectural firms will soon be touring all over France.