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French Pavilion at the 2016 15th International Architecture Biennale of Venice

With the title of ‘‘New Riches’’, the Obras agency and its co-founder Frédéric Bonnet, along with the AJAP14 group are offering an original and committed project for the French Pavilion at the 2016 15th International Architecture Biennale of Venice.
From May 26 to November 27, 2016, the French Pavilion of the International Architecture Biennale of Venice will be the voice of the awareness of the riches and cultural ferment of the architectural situation in France at the territorial level, owing to the rich soil of all the actors involved in building a living environment.
The exhibit evokes ordinary and familiar locations, not warranting great attention, where transformations can take place. Set up at the Pavilion, it has been divided into four groups of rooms called ‘‘Territoires’’, ‘‘Récit’’, ‘‘Savoir-faire’’ and ‘‘Terreau’’ (Territories, Narration, Savoir-faire, Soil).
The ‘‘New Riches’’ project proposed by the Obras-Frédéric Bonnet and AJAP14 team has been selected further to a call for projects launched by the Institut français, agent of the French Pavilion, in collaboration with the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the French Ministry of Culture and Communication.

"We have sought to take ordinary places into account, ones that we rarely talk about, but that many of us pass through, live or work in – banal places that are not always objects of particular attention. And yet transformations are occurring in these locations: here a new amenity is being set up; there a new pathway is developing… When a bit of collective intelligence is invested in thinking through these transformations, these places are enhanced for the common good. In these cases, architecture has a particular responsibility – a public one. Its effects are all the more beneficial as they are carried out collectively, beyond the architect: by elected officials, citizens, users, companies etc.
Territories Room
We have selected ten locations transformed in this way, and have explored them through the photographs of the “France(s) Liquid Territory” collective. Three photographs report on each site. The first two show these places such as we are used to seeing them, typical and banal French situations, that will also seem familiar to many from our neighboring countries. The third image shows the project, the recent transformation, an architecture that alters perception, that transfigures and improves the situation, and brings forth something new, a new dimension of use and landscape.
The main central room of the pavilion is a place for discovering these landscapes.
New riches: We believe that these patient transformations are also an opportunity to create new riches, far from the financial flows or the contributions from large public commissions. These riches are goods shared in common. they establish new relations between individuals and the community: through enhanced know-how, the development of local channels, by strengthening links between places and their inhabitants, through enrichment of daily life, as well as by exchanges and solidarity between generations, between neighbors, and between territories.
The exploration of these new riches, the role of architecture in their advent, and the collective dimensions of citizenship are explored in the second section of the catalogue.
These new riches are varied and numerous. We have not sought to concentrate on any single domain, but rather to highlight this diversity, which is a force in itself. We chose a specific number: twelve. It could equally have been 6, 9, or 15, no doubt, but this arbitrary selection gave us an opportunity to render these human stories in sufficient detail and accuracy, and to provide accounts of these transformations without glossing over their differences and the wealth of possibilities they afford. Each situation is enriched through its relation to its neighbors: The fact that there are so many themes of work and such variety in the types of questions enhances the scope and capacities of architecture to help disentangle each specific situation.
Each of these twelve projects is the subject of a specific text, written by one or another of us. The critical text is not just an occasion for presenting the project and its site. It also identifies themes of working, ways in which to resolve contemporary issues, that could be applied elsewhere. Within the narrow confines of this book we have called out precursors and pioneers. The problems of the contemporary world are not all “new”, and one must know how to look to and learn from past experiences.
We have not individually signed these texts, whose contrasting contents are a reflection of the spectrum of possibilities. Nor have we chosen to refer to our own built projects, but only to other experiences, carried out by others.
Narrative Room
Six investigations in six locations attest to the encounters that were required to set up the projects, and the ways in which they came to be carried out. We divided up the work and went to the project locations to meet the mayors, the inhabitants, the general contractors, and the builders - accompanied each time by members of the MYOP collective, photographers and sound recorders.
Know-How Room
The “know-how” room focuses on the materiality of six other projects, the means by which their implementation gives meaning to the territory, and to its human and economic resources as well. Models, drawings, and photographs lent by the architects proved an account. We have also created large explanatory drawings to unpack and analyze the architectural solutions.
Fertile Ground Room
Otherness and diversity were key issues for us. The complexity of the world is sometimes overwhelming, but there are so many possibilities for innovation. And architecture plays its part among many others. There are multiple dimensions to the “front”. We proposed the hypothesis that the territory of the nation was teeming with experiments and propositions. We sent out a call across the nation to architecture schools as well as to the advisory bodies and pedagogical authorities that operate at the national scale. There were many responses. Today the architecture schools are pioneers. They are at the “front,” considering barely explored subjects, that receive little funding, but which all address important needs: the development of rural areas, of peripheral urban areas, and the diffuse, and rather poorly managed, low density city where 40% of citizens live nonetheless -- the informal habitat, the habitat for the poorest among us, the instances of “shortcuts” to construction, the exploration of the capacities of local pathways, the most understated constructive lodes, etc. The territorial councils do their work further upstream and have an impact on elected officials as well as on citizens and institutions. They work on the same subjects.
This ferment is creating an inexhaustible fertile ground. It is an indication of the energies brought to reflection, and of the commitment of architects to the challenges of society. In this exhibition, we take this into account in the third room opposite the entry. Current initiatives, research, workshops, and experiments are mapped out and located geographically. The images and texts that were sent to us by the contributors are also projected."
Extract from the press dossier

  •   Vieille-Église, 2016 © Guillaume Amat – France(s) Territoire Liquide  
  •   Vieille-Église © Guillaume Amat - France(s) Territoire Liquide  
  •   Cherbourg © Fred Delangle - France(s) Territoire Liquide  
  •   © Matteo de Fina  
  •   © Matteo de Fina  
  •   © Sophie Scher  
  •   © Sophie Scher  
  •   © Sophie Scher  
  •   © Sophie Scher  
  •   © Sophie Scher  
  •   © Sophie Scher  
  •   © Sophie Scher  
  •   © Sophie Scher  
  •   © Sophie Scher  
  •   © Sophie Scher