, ,

Author(s): Rennes Catherine Rannou et Mathieu Le Barzic
Contributor: ENSA Bretagne et ENSA Val de Seine

Trans-rural Lab

The Breton intensive agricultural model implemented after World War II profoundly affected the rural landscape and upset traditional social practices. The damage caused by this intensive model is visible and now decried. Environmental dysfunctions, nitrate pollution, green algae proliferation on the coasts, asbestos-laden buildings, etc., are the visible traces of the most profound processes that affect the landscape – built and geographic – and the social and cultural cohesion organised by the land. The economic model of intensive production under which agriculture developed in Brittany has become obsolete.

The logic of concentration in the intensive production model led to farm closings and the abandonment of considerable built surface area: factories, silos, warehouses, pits, paved surfaces. What should be done with these polluted and polluting buildings and facilities? … Should they be destroyed, renovated, re-purposed, or dismantled?

The Trans-Rural Lab teaching platform created in 2015 at the ENSA Paris Val de Seine is the continuation of an experimental educational experience, “Hyper-situations – agroalimentaire” (Hyper-situations – agro-industry), initially established by Mathieu Lebarzic, Eric Hardy, and Catherine Rannou at the ENSAB in 2012. The teaching platform is cross-disciplinary (art, architecture, agriculture), it brings together several schools (architecture, art), an agricultural secondary school, and existing local skills and knowledge.

As part of the teaching process, students are asked to plan new uses and functions for agricultural operations in dire circumstances. The work was conducted with the residents, and the students helped take decisions as they are the co-constructors of the projects.

Not consuming agricultural land or even restoring it is one of the conditions of the projects. This involves envisioning transitional scenarios for the operations, a minimum of a 20-year plan in a weak and uncertain economic context. It is an opportunity to reflect on energy and food autonomy for the residents, reusing “poorly maintained” livestock buildings, and the material and human resources on the site. It is also an opportunity to propose a strategy for asbestos removal on a territorial scale, and to overturn established urban planning and industrial standards. Beyond plans and models, the modes of representation and communication borrow freely from mechanisms used in art, illustration, and cartoons.

In 2014, the mayor of Caulnes (22) made a farm that was no longer in operation available to Trans-Rural Lab for artistic, architectural, and landscape design projects that experiment with energy transition mechanisms and the resilience of the site and surrounding area.

The future buildings will be designed and built by the residents and students already working on the project, along with volunteer help from local companies. Students, instructors, and outside stakeholders are housed with the residents of Caulnes.

Trans-Rural Lab describes itself as an example of a transition proposal for asbestos-filled agricultural buildings in France. Preservation of agricultural land, food, and energy production are emblematic of the architecture and art projects established here.

Thus, architecture and agriculture must seek to become more subsistent than commodity food producing.

Function : Imagining new uses for deserted agricultural exploitations