Author(s): MTA architectes

Elemental architecture

We started in 1998, young architects in Clermont-Ferrand with an initial intuition – fed by the concept of “critical regionalism” dear to Kenneth Frampton – that of moving links and links in Motion between Territory and Architecture… an intuition that incorporates our own initials and forms MTA…

Gradually, we were faced with the transformation of this “environmental land”: extricated from the rural world, left uncultivated, and deindustrialised as well. Where Frampton associated the emergence of critical regionalism with a certain prosperity in an area, we had to change concepts and attitudes when faced with the observed abandonment and expanding impoverishment. In our prospecting to live from our trade, the operation of the La Planche holiday centre in Viscomtat, in the Puy-de-Dôme, was an experiment in this reversal.

When questioned by a new client, the Village Community of Montagne Thiernoise, which was interested in one of our first designs, our discourse encountered the resistance force, the energy of the elected official (its President, Paul Rodier) and the technician (its Director, Christophe Castanié) so that an old village farm would not disappear. A little apart from everything, opposite the soft elimination of the stone building with a hidden, coarsely hewn wood frame, this site had all the elements necessary for survival in an environment that could be simultaneously fertile, hard, and hostile in winter, which we experienced on the construction site. Literally, we exhumed, dug out, revealing the rocky outcroppings… sought, harvested, replaced parts of the frame, with tree trunks lying there, with the first resinous boards from the neighbouring saw mill, out of architectural poetry and for the full expressive power of the material resource, here “elemental”… exceeding the discourse on frugality, a useful concept, but too often associated with the rural world, suggesting fatalism and restriction.

Here, this is one of the ‘little republican miracles’ that occurred through solidarity and redistribution among regions – through taxes and subsidies – by mobilisation, political governance, and the intelligence of territorial engineering. Where the uncultivated condition is a new wealth in the rural area that we called “feralness”. Where architecture is geo-poetical, and ‘elemental’, the most direct experience possible with what remains of the wild – here a tree, wood, stone… then turned outward to the outside world.

Function : Renewal of an old farm into an average mountain cottage