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Author(s): Olivier MACLES et Marc-Antoine DURAND
Contributor: ENSA Clermont-Ferrand

The Auvergne toolmaker

For lack of (other) experience(s), today’s generation of architects emerging from architecture schools integrates a generalized state of crisis as an initial condition of the project.

If there is only a crisis for s/he who has enjoyed abundance, this generation is lucky not to work with the illusion of a lost golden age, but with the consciousness that the future of all depends of their capacity to invent.

The Clermont-Ferrand ENSA recruits its students from a wide – mostly rural – pool. This specificity is expressed in a cultivated interest for the “unloved” territories of contemporary urban planning, for these marginal suburban and rural territories.

In her recent works, Paola Vigano emits the hypothesis of a vital relation between the renewal of project tools as specific form of the research and “inexorable marginalisation of the architect and urban planner in today’s society”[1] that we must fight.

Our students must explore the paths of a new epistemology of the project founded on the composite nature of the activity of architects and – most particularly – understand this activity in the complexity of contemporary situations to which it must respond. From then on, their commitment to the sustainable development of territories affirms no other ambitions than to offer viable alternatives that are – as much as possible – joyful. The responsibility that could prove devastating is conversely stimulating. If the new claims of the trade are tied to this extension of the areas of competence of architecture, they work to define the new understanding of a discipline that they desire open and optimistic.

The project exercise – as conducted in the Master EVAN subject area – poses as the preliminary to the development of strategies of intervention, the identification of the deficiencies in the modes of production of contemporary urbanity: the deficit of consideration of the project environment, the recurrent resort to the transposition of solutions identified as qualitative or efficient, the clumsy superimposition of resolution scales, a governance increasingly motivated by the fear of the worse rather than by the aspiration to the better, and the urban planning documents uniting this feeble ambition that ultimately engender the general public’s negative a priori on the profession.

To these old reflexes, we offer to substitute a range of new or reinvented tools, because, as with André Corboz[2], the advent of territories depends above all of the instruments we use to describe them. The images proposed here illustrate the inventiveness of our toolbox.


[1]        VIGANO, Paola (2012), Les territoires de l’urbanisme, Métis presses.

[2]        CORBOZ, André (2001), La description : entre lecture et écriture , in Le territoire comme palimpseste et autres essais, éditions de l’imprimeur.