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placemaking | Ooze talks about “Théâtre Évolutif”

Category: placemaking+urban social design+⚐ EN

placemaking | We recently published “Théâtre évolutif” in Bordeaux the first post of our new series about placemaking, which is finally ready and will be published each Monday along the next two months. The following post shows some more images of the project and a short interview to Ooze, the architects that together with Marjetica Potrc co-designed and co-constructed it.

How were you brought to participate to Evento 2011, and especially to co-design the Théâtre Evolutif?

We recently participated in a number of public art on-site projects with Marjetica Potrc; in 2009 in Amsterdam and last year in the Emscherkunst 2010 with Between The Waters, the Emscher Community Garden. Both had a participative and multidisciplinary nature. Following these projects, in spring we were asked by the curatorial team of Evento 2011, “L’art pour une re-evolution urbaine”, lead by Michelangelo Pistoletto to work on Place Andre Meunier and collaborate with the artist collective Bureau d’Etudes on this location.

Théâtre Évolutif did not start as a concept as such but from the square, “Place André Meunier” – a place with a lot of history and a loaded past which had in time become almost a void in the city, not a place to stay, more a space to pass through.

In the team we came up with the idea to include the building site in the artistic concept. We decided to salvage the trees from this one and other building-sites in Bordeaux as well as the excavated soil. And most importantly we decided to build forth on the notion of the building site as an ongoing work in process and evolution.

How would you describe Théâtre Evolutif?

Théâtre Évolutif performs a collective action that demonstrates the cultural and physical remaking of the neighbourhood – an action that spans diverse disciplines and backgrounds. Through their direct involvement with the project, Saint-Michel residents are articulating a need for greater social innovation in the building of a sustainable city. They are giving new value to their identity with the neighbourhood and their commitment to it, even as they enact their vision of, as they put it, ‘how we want to live together’. For the municipal government, Théâtre Évolutif is a pilot project that tests a bottom-up approach to the design of the city.

Théâtre Évolutif is, fundamentally, a shelter and an agora, a place where groups and individuals can come together with a common purpose to engage with and learn from one another. Equally important, however, they can engage with and learn from the ‘relational objects’ of the Théâtre Évolutif – the open-roof structure, the water-supply infrastructure, the vegetable gardens, and the animals. For visitors to Evento 2011 Place André Meunier becomes a playground where they can discover and participate in examples of coexistence between urban life and nature, a laboratory where they see a new kind of city imagined and constructed.

The project is organized around three cycles: the dynamic cycle of citizenship (participating in the remaking of the public space), the human water cycle (the drinking water station and the public toilet), and the bio-dynamic cycle (interacting with the natural world for example, through gardening and beekeeping). The project enacts coexistence between the architectural site (“Chantier architectural”) and the social site (“Chantier social”).

What were your objectives and expectations, as architects and Evento guests?

Our objectives were to engage with alternative processes to remake the city based on bottom-up strategies, to look into a narrative which involves the residents, local associations and public authorities in the remaking of the square. For us it is very interesting to work on temporary art events as architects with the idea to extend the temporary work to a permanent one. We are very interested in the energy and the momentum that this type of event is bringing to a city to achieve results which normally would take much longer.

Architecture is by nature more permanent and therefore there is not much spontaneity and it is more political loaded with regulations which make the design and decision making process heavy. Art on the other hand, because of its temporariness can go a lot further to break more grounds in the physical, but also in the social. So with the art project you can allow yourself to advance without knowing the outcome, which in architecture you cannot afford because the stakes are higher and it is more frozen.

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placemaking | “Théâtre évolutif” in Bordeaux

Category: placemaking+urban social design+⚐ EN

placemaking | What if an urban vacant space could turn into a social public space? What if the neglected brownfields that abound our cities were to become a means to social interaction, an urban catalyst of local ventures, a landmark? What if urban design turned out to be a social process? This is the first post of a new series dedicated to placemaking, to projects born in these urban gaps, grown from social participation and involved in sustainable urban development.

Théâtre évolutif - Sketch by the collective Bureau d'études

Théâtre évolutif, carried out by the Bureau d’études collective (France), the artist Marjetica Potrc (Slovenia) and the architects Ooze (Netherlands) invited to collaborate for the Evento 2011, is a co-designed and co-constructed landscape and architecture installation aiming to inspire the future design of André Meunier square.

In the heart of Bordeaux (France), alongside the main avenue Cours de la Marne and close to the train station, sits André Meunier Square, one of the city’s biggest public space and yet, vacant. Situated in St Michel, middle class district hosting mainly immigrants, this urban gap, despite many previous attempts of improvement, remains pending to be occupied. Today, along with an urban requalification program of the district, the square is expecting a radical transformation.

From the 6th to the 16th of October took place in Bordeaux, Evento 2011, an international artistic event. Under the slogan “Art for a re-evolution”, the experience gathered artists from all around the world willing to carry out innovative reflections on urban public space, through creative and social temporary projects. On this occasion, the collective Bureau d’études, think tank and main coordinator of the project in André Meunier square, the architects Ooze and the artist Marjetica Potrc were invited to set up a participation process to design an urban microproject. Local citizens, associations, collectives and volunteers were invited to collaborate for a collective brainstorming around the installation, aiming to inspire the public space’s outcome.

Photography by Pierre Planchenault for Evento 2011

Photography by Pierre Planchenault for Evento 2011

The design process began last summer, officially on July 19th, when participants signed a charter aiming to define common objectives and to engage the members in a common process of design and participation of what would become the Théâtre évolutif. The name of the project highlights two intentions: théâtre, meaning theatre, as for a place where a diversity of individuals may interact, and évolutif, meaning having the capacity to evolve with time and adapt itself to its surrounding, both physically and according to its use. Conceived as a template of urban ecosystem, the project combines a landscape and architectural design and underlines the will to inspire a flexible public space, open to occasional interventions and spontaneous use.

Construction began on September 2nd, gathering all members implicated in the project and two architects, Alan Gentil (from Bureau Baroque) and Marc Berbedes (from Bureau d’études Bois Structures). The project was gradually put together between the stubbornly standing do-it-yourself shed, the Cabane à gratter, built in 2008 from waste materials with Les P’tits Gratteurs association (actively working in the district since 2001) and the menacing municipal construction site of the upcoming parking lot, actually occupying ⅔ of the square. According to its environmental commitment, the structure was made with the trunks of the condemned trees of the adjacent construction, and other building sites in Bordeaux. Free of any determined function, it puts forth more than a space, a welcoming face and a potential of various uses and occupations, aiming to inspire long term involvement.

Photography by Pierre Planchenault for Evento 2011

During Evento, the Théâtre évolutif invited people to take part in workshops such as planting herbs or making “seed bombs”, weapons of mass plantation (with Friche and Cheap association), to enjoy a shady 5 meters high stroll in the treetops (with Adrenaline association), to learn about aromatic herbs and birdhouses along with Bernard le jardinier (from La Maison du Jardinier), to make herbal tea from the plants collected on-site, or even enjoy free collective meals… But what next ? Gabi Farage (Evento commissioner) underlines that the real outcome of the project wasn’t the “one shot” of Evento but relies in its capacity to evolve, hence its name. A closing event on October 15th gathered all the citizens implicated in the process to talk about the future: how can we, real users of the square, get involved in its outcoming design? Evento was just the first baby step of a social process of great ambitions.

 

Learn more Podcast Radio Grenouille “Éventail d’EVENTO #10 – Écosystème urbain”