We can no longer judge the quality of a project solely by its response to a certain set of problems existing at a particular moment in time. Rather, it is the capacity of the project to adapt to a changing reality, to integrate new ways of living and to evolve in pace with the shifting pattern of needs and expectations of current and future users. It is the ability of architecture to anticipate the world of tomorrow.
The designer must, therefore, begin by reinventing himself. Whatever the project, whether it be a piece of a city or an architectural work, the designer must project himself into the future in order to imagine all the possible ways in which the project may evolve, and to cater for the unforeseeable. He must be able to deal with a constantly changing present, which may be evolving faster than the duration of the project. His thought process must allow for a constantly changing timescale, and a large measure of uncertainty and unpredictability. He must risk proposing different hypotheses, and alternate between firm control and improvisation, creating a dynamic equilibrium and versatile spaces.
The Arte meta-card evokes a selection of themed questions which we consider highly topical, and of strategic value, for the start of 2019 and the coming years, which form the foundation of our research and development.
ARTE CHARPENTIER ARCHITECTES
Paris • Lyon • Shanghai
Designing the resilient city
The phenomenon of global warming is associated with an increase in the frequency and seriousness of meteorological catastrophes affecting all regions of the world. Combined with the effects of run-away urbanisation, these climatic events are putting more and more people and property at risk.
It is becoming imperative that all regions be able to adapt to and limit the effects of climate change. We can no longer oppose what is happening, and risk managers and planning authorities must work together to find resilient solutions rather than rigid, breakable ones.
Flood prevention is a case in point. ‘Floodability’ should increasingly be considered a prerequisite for the development of new urban districts, seen as a positive asset contributing to a dynamic design rather than as a negative constraint. The management of flood risk should be integrated in the design of public spaces from the very outset in an effort to work with nature rather than against it, with the preservation of natural water courses, the preference for permeable, free-draining surfaces, and the provision of flood water expansion areas. Combined with good design, the added dimension of this new criterion will generate a richer and more diverse urban landscape evolving continuously with the ebb and flow of water.
Housing is a key factor in social well-being and should be the subject of a new approach to project design which places societal transformation on the same level as statutory transformations. The wealth of regulatory standards in recent years, mainly concerned with accessibility and environmental aspects, has led to a mass of standardised products unsuited to the diversity of lifestyles and household incomes, and lacking in quality of use.
Housing must, most importantly, be readdressed to cater for the current diverse range of family types. We can no longer rely on the traditional generic family model and housing design should reflect these changes. Inventive solutions will enable spaces to evolve and adapt in an elastic way in parallel with the life of inhabitants.
It is also important to place quality of use and living high on the list of design priorities. In a majority of households, as a result of economic constraints, space is often very restricted, and insufficient for inhabitants’ needs, to the point where it is becoming necessary to propose internal and external communal areas in addition to, and as an extension of, private spaces. Today it is necessary to consider an apartment and adjoining areas and interfaces as a whole, and to propose wider thresholds between the public and private domains, and a treatment of rooftops, ground floor areas, and other uninhabitable areas. Richer and more generous interiors and better services can be achieved by means of creative thinking about typology and uses assigned to spaces, thus rebuilding a sense of community and creating social ties. Each family’s intimacy is preserved whilst being enriched by a greater sense of community.
Reclaim the ordinary
In the context of a finite planet with limited resources, the necessity for restraint in the consumption of materials, and the need for reuse and recycling strategies, unavoidably affects the built heritage in its broadest sense, including the most ordinary buildings.
Such buildings currently make up the majority of cities and should be considered as the most important element in combatting the obsolescence of the public domain. In order to stay relevant and keep pace with changing lifestyles, it needs to be reinvented, whilst preserving or transforming its initial purpose. It must not only be updated to meet technical and environmental standards and regulations, but should, moreover, conform to and anticipate the new demands and needs of its users.
The architect’s task, therefore, takes on a new dimension. He must work with, and find inspiration in, an existing support with its given spatial, aesthetic and material characteristics, and with its existing relationship with the surroundings such as the local heritage, landmark features and symbolic nature.
Giving sense to urban fringes
The marketplace was traditionally at the hub of, and gave rise to, many of the world’s cities. However, in the last fifty years business models have led to a very stereotypical and homogenised commercial marketplace detached from the public spaces of urban centres.
The commercial zones on the outskirts of towns, resulting from outdated urban planning models, and now absorbed by urban sprawl, need to be readdressed. These areas, often underexploited but with great development potential, represent an opportunity to restructure a fragmented urban fabric, to upgrade and reconfigure whole districts. These car-designed zones can be reclaimed and reintegrated within the continuity of urban spaces at a human scale by reconnecting them to public transport networks. Mono-functional enclaves can be replaced by living and working hubs with increased urban mix and diversity.
The commercial aspect can no longer be considered in isolation of the wider context of urban centres. It must form an integral part, and contribute to, the creation of the urban landscape and the sustainable city.
Revealing the public domain
Public space is where communities find their expression both of what binds them and their richness and diversity. The designer has the responsibility to provide convivial, safe and accessible spaces with an abundance of planting. He must take into account changing climatic conditions, the topography, soil conditions, the presence of water and vegetation to create adaptable and durable places.
The public domain is also the place which defines the relationship between the citizen and the town. Taking into consideration the individual, the user, the inhabitant, implies the ability to listen, and to bring out the vision and unspoken ideas which can influence and enrich a project. One must constantly adapt oneself and engage with the future users of a place, accepting the differing ideas and critiques of laypersons in striving for the well-being of all. Co-construction of the city should not be seen as a disincentive but as the vector of a project’s expansion.
The public domain must ensure its role as a catalyst in social relations and provide truly inclusive spaces. Leaving part of a project undefined will allow citizens to appropriate their surroundings and will favour a multitude of uses to reveal themselves. It will encourage spontaneity, social cohesion and collective purpose and promote a sense of belonging. In effect, doing less leads to more.