How can we promote the emergence of high quality projects in rural areas that lack engineering or elected officials who are aware of spatial issues? How can we encourage mutual enhancement between two worlds that rarely mix: young architects for whom the country is still a marginal topic, and elected officials and residents of little villages that are often overcome by a feeling of abandonment?
The workshop discusses rural space through concrete field experience. It attests to the goal of starting projects collectively and in a shared way, to assist them through construction, or simply to sow a few seeds here and there, to awaken a curiosity, and a desire to build well.
By conceiving of the workshop as an educational tool to help bring together disciplines and stakeholders who are separate a priori, and with the goal of being the starting point for promising projects in rural areas, the Direction Départementale des Territoires de la Mayenne (Mayenne Departmental Planning Division), at the instigation of Marc Botineau and Anne Maguéro, Government architectural and landscape architecture advisors, established a partnership with the École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Paris-Belleville (French National School of Architecture in Paris-Belleville) and architect-instructors Gaël Huitorel and Alexandre Morais. The result: an interdisciplinary studio intended as a succession of three key moments, studio / sensitisation / construction, a medium designed to be rapid and light in order to be efficient.
School in the field
To accentuate the question of rural identity in the educational program, the school moved to a rural village in the Mayenne for one week. The students surveyed the site with a sensitive and aware perspective, exploring the themes of land, views, and limits. At the same time, through the project, they address the question of the urban renewal of peripheral expansions, or the future of business parks, using the landscape as the common theme. This involves showing that the organisation of a municipality happens before any overall vision.
Educating to arouse desire
The approach and the work are then transmitted to elected officials and residents through a presentation and a travelling exhibit. For one year, the village of one thousand residents became a site for exchanges, a topic for educating territorial agents. Thus, in territories often considered abandoned, we are deciding to work on all fronts to promote the concept of design in the country and stir up a desire for architecture and landscape architecture.
Return to the real
At the end of the workshop, the proposals are discussed to bring out certain issues and serve as triggers for envisioning the transformation of a site or proposing a program. Often to save resources, these projects, some of which are being developed, attempt to resolve architectural, urban planning, and landscape issues at various levels, to lead to high quality improvements that can then be circulated locally to catch on.