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Boletín CF+S > 32/33: IAU+S: la Sostenibilidad en el Proyecto Arquitectónico y Urbanístico >   
Amorphous mutations [1]
François Roche
Paris (France), 2000.Amorphous mutations| Lámina 1. Shearing >>>

«I had to admit defeat. Something wanted it that way. I, too, was just an instrument. The world was nothing more than an infinite interweave of instruments. The respite had only lasted for as long as the mirage that it was».
Les Racines du Mal
Maurice G. Dantec (1995)

Sites and territories nurture identities, preconditions and affects that architecture and urbanism have continuously restrained and eradicated. The architectural object, having claimed authority for four centuries[2] has the power of unparalleled destruction of modernity to maturity. But in so doing it signs its own limits and end.

The numerous aesthetic orthodoxies born in the antechamber of reason and the wastedumps of ideology have now not only become unworkable but are also criminal in their discrepancy with society.

Judging each operation on the validity of hypotheses within an enormous assortment of ever increasing facts and artefacts is not an easy task. Signs and referents are not pre-given, like a symbolic reference, but have to be discovered in real time, on the real site.

If architecture did not know or could not substitute for the modern culture of breaking in a culture of place, more attentive to what it was bulldozing, it is that the verse was already in the fruit. In short, a genetic error... The horizons of the world of perception, of corporeality and of place have only too rarely been the mediums of a production.

Territorialising[3] architecture does not mean cloaking it in the rags of a new fashion or style, which would be just as out of such and separate from the styles and fashions already consumed. Territorialising architecture in order that the place gains a social, cultural and aesthetic[4] link means inserting it back into what it might have been on the verge of destroying, and extracting the substance of the construction from the landscape (whether urban or otherwise), whether a physical, corporeal substance within it, or climates, materials, perceptions and affects.

This is not historical regression, nor modern projection, but an attitude that affirms itself by what it doesn't belong to, outlined against a razor's edge, in permanent equilibrium. It is a process that is renewed at each new place, allowing for an in-situ attitude rather than just another aesthetic code. From that a radical displacement of our function can be born.

To identify that which characterises a place is already to interpret it and to put forward a way of operating on it. But linking being to its ecosystem can only save linking the body to the body of architecture.

This process of reactive mimesis is not a simulation of the exquisite corpse game, a visual avatar, disappearing and camouflaging itself with an ecological alibi. Its ability to take hold of a territory without subjugating it depends on the unclear identity that develops within it, on the transformation it operates, on the gap of its implementation, on the ambiguity of the network of extraction/transformation that the materials have come from.

This antidote to the separated (Berque, 1995), autonomous body, this live production process could not operate were it not nourished by these active materials: «there are the images of materials [...] sight names them and the hand knows them»(Bachelard, 1942).

In order that these barren propositions do not add, subtract but rather extract, and in order that the object of architecture can spur on the real, like a contorted alterity of the territory in abeyance, we should, perhaps, shift the origins of architectural referents into a precondition that states «there is».

We had spent several years looking for the instrument that would enable us to explore the minimal act, somewhere between the not—much and the just enough, where the territorial change stemming from architecture would be steeped in prior geographies, where the development can work its way in, and embed itself in what it was supposed to dominate, to exacerbate issues of mutation and identity.

We were after an instrument that would enable us to introduce strategies of hybridisation and mimesis in the here and now of each particular situation. In view of the many different manipulations of history, involving morality and heritage alike, geography and cartography —and not the tracing, as Deleuze and Guattari[5]remind us— have always seemed more operational to us.

But to contrast the already existing site with its future, in an encounter between the image of the exposed context and the image (in photomontage) that embraces the architectural project, like the demonstration of a processing economy, was not enough for us. We were missing the grasp of the process, in the breakdown of successive hypotheses.

Despite formulating hybridisation scenarios (Fresnoy, Magasins Généraux, House in the Trees, Berlin, Sarcelles...), the medium was lacking. The mutations not only never appeared in the movement that had given rise to them, but, even more so, the documents, in the final analysis, could, by virtue of their isolation, be re—interpreted as decontextualized artefacts.

The processes of distortion, originating from morphing, and here presented by serial tapes or elsewhere on videotapes, stem from this dearth and open up a field of possibilities. Over and above a fascination with the technological tool, and with the contrived metamorphosis that it creates, we are exercised by its revelatory and operational function.The more deceptive the morphed movement seems, the more inert in its transformation, the more the urban and architectural project seems to be dominated by the prior situation. The more the morphing can be read in its artifice, the more the projection seems, this time around, to be deterritoralized. Unlike an instrument of representation, morphing thus reveals the degree to which the hypotheses are decontextualized, and in an on—going back—and—forth between deduction and induction, a re—reading of the successive phases will validate or invalidate the relevance of the choices, in a making with to do less strategy[6]. It is no longer a matter of contrasting the project with its context, like two distinct hypotheses, but of linking them together by the actual transformation process.

The project is no longer the issue of an abstract projection, but of a distortion of the real. The blank page and the empty screen cannot be.

This software calls for a body, a generic physical matrix. The skin[7] of the photographic, cartographic image is transformed and metamorphosed by aspiration (Aqua Alta in Venice), by Scrambling (Farm in Switzerland), by Overflow (Restaurant in Japan), by Extrusion and Contraction (Tave House and Maido Museum in Reunion Island) by folding (Soweto museum in South Africa), by growing Pilosity (Tower in Paris), by shearing Territory (House Barak in France and Rotterdam urbanism)...[8]

And the pixels, fractal fragments of the real, are put back together again in a series of genetic mutations. The context is no longer idealised, conceptualised or historicised, it is rather an underlayer of its own transformation. This is a political difference. The virtual instrument paradoxically becomes a principle of reality.

A few words of explanation: Morphing lies at the root of a software which makes it possible to merge image A with image B by means of a topological shift of salient dots. With the Warp technique, which is a variant of this process, it is possible to produce this alteration, but without being aware of the resulting B. Image A can thus be easily manipulated, and distorted, when it comes into contact with a programme and a scenario, but it cannot side—step its own matter, it own physicality, by resisting it. And it is this amorphism that is involved here.

Presenting the conditions of a hybridisation and a transformation that are paradoxically static and which, by virtue of the mobility/immobility that they create, reveal at best the various issues of prior identity and geography. It is tantamount to producing a critical state both on the territorial development processes but also on the use and misuse of technologies.

Doing nothing is to raise questions and problems, alike. Doing things on the map, by way of these @morphous Mutations, is like trying to do things from the negative angle, without the preformatted and accepted skills. The model already in place obliges us to switch our skill towards other arenas (social mechanisms, political economics, and territorial challenges). This process thus opens up areas of investigation likely to extricate us from the dictate of modern projection (medium and alibi of 20th century architecture), which has muddled the programme with the declaration of functions.To make the architectural object ambiguous, and to force it out of the real, is to question our own perception[9].

Nothing seems more pertinent to me than an architecture that straddles such ambiguities. The binary structures of the predominant thinking about heritage/modernity and servility/domination have, happily, imploded. The transformations of the body and its sexuality, using silicone and collagen, as a diametric opposite of the Metropolis Cyber—Robot, are the lead—in to this. The contemporary prosthesis is made of flesh, and the functional outgrowth made of artificial skin is re-formed.

The body is not denied, but exacerbated and hypertrophied.Technology thus enables us, by way of these @morphous Mutations, to involve processes and write scripts which reactivate the concept of localism, not to serve up dishes again that have got cold, and museified models, but a thrilling localism, made up of contradictions[10] and respect, and reactive membranes, in an elastic topography.Identifying what characterises a place by these new tools is already tantamount to putting forward a new operational method. So there's not much point in doing a whole lot more.



Sommières, 2001, France
Architect: R&Sie..., Paris
Creative team and associated partners: François Roche, Stéphanie Lavaux, Alexandre Boulin, Olivier Legrand
Engineer: Abaca Engineer
Contractor: Christian Hubert de Lisle
Key dimensions: 160 m2
Client: Ami &Judith Barak
Cost: 0,16 million USD
Design of a house for Judith and Ami Barak, director of an art centre in Montpellier, in the South of France.


Lámina 1. Shearing


Bangkok, Thailand 2002, Design for a Contemporary Art Museum
Creative team: François Roche, Stéphanie Lavaux, Jean Navarro, Pascal Bertholio
Local architect: A49/ Bangkok
Landscape architect: Michel Boulcourt, Paris
Furniture designer: Mathieu Lehanneur, Paris
Structural steel engineer: Nicolas Green, Paris, London
Light engineer: ACT / B. Lalloz
Client: Petch Osathanugrah, Bangkok
Key dimensions: 5.000 m2


Lámina 2. Dustyrelief B-mu

Hybrid Muscle

The Game
Philippe Parreno, François Roche, 2003
It's a tale of another future, lost in a Thai rice field. It's about Siamese twins: Hybrid Muscle, R&Sie..., 2003, the shelter that produced a movie Boys form Mars, Philippe Parreno, 2003, the movie that produced a shelter Hybrid Muscle.
Chang Mai, Thailand, 2003
Scenario: The Game, François &Philippe Parreno
Architect: R&Sie...
Contractor: Christian Hubert de Lisle, ADS
Creative Team: François Roche, Stéphanie Lavaux, Jean Navarro
Key dimensions: 130 m2
Client: The Land, Rirkirt Tiravanija
Cost: 65.000 USD
Construction of a work and exhibition space that would generate its own electricity and thus be unplugged from the power grid. Private commision.


Postscript 2003:

Lámina 3. Hybrid Muscle

Green Gorgon, 2005, Lausanne

R&Sie...Architectes, Paris, Mandataire François Roche, Stéphanie Lavaux, Jean Navarro
Associé à Philippe Parreno, Artiste, Paris &:
Ingénierie, Guscetti et Tournier, Bureau d'Ingénierie, Carouge, Suisse
Ingénieur Façade, VP &Green, Paris
Ingéniur Thermique, Klaus Daniels, HL Technik, Muinch, Allemagne
Paysagisme, Michel Boulcourt, Paris
Mark Dion, Artiste, USA Mathieu Lehanneur, Paris, Designer GPS
Sergio Ochatt, Paris, Schientifique botaniste
Ami Barak, Paris, Muséographe
Colaborateurs: Miguel-Angel Muñoz, Quck Zhong-Yi, Kika Estarellas, Maud Godard, Julien Jaquot
Client: Etat de Vaud, Ville de Lausanne, Suisse

The nMBA is the emanation of a lakeside biotope. A reflection in water of branches and undulating gnarled forms was the image that served as the project's starting point. A strange and enchanting dream, Ophelia's hair, or one of Grimm's fairytales that takes place in the middle of a forest.

All at once, you are attracted to it and afraid of it...The nMBA is a place of illusions; it exists where the wild, weeds, urbanized and artificial nature converge. They intermingle with each other an form a maze, a curiosity show, a landscaped building, The Garden of Forking Paths to reference a novel by Jorge Luis Borges. Time is stretched, paths multiply and the museum unfolds. Like the Winchester Mystery house where walls can be crossed, secret staircases appear and hidden doors reveal forgotten rooms.

The museum.

Interlaced like rhizome, progressing like a bed of coral and entangled like stick insects, it forms a phasmida. The project's geometric disposition favors the collection's diversity, and permits its arrangement and rearrangement. Most importantly, this three-dimensional maze is a structural-link to accomodate the museum's diverse timetables. Numerous ficelles create a hidden circuit that is slanted and hovering between different levels and time frames.

The museum's morphology is based on playful representation. It's simultaneously toboggan, a haunted house and an ice palace where one loses all notions of space. It's curiosity that relates the popular dimension of the site to an amusement park. But the nMBA is also a working tool: a tool for meditation, sensation and discovery that will serve arrangements, transfers and the swaddling and unswaddling of cognitive reality and discursivity.

Nature or Natures...

More a landscape than an urbanism; more a forest then architecture. A project that plays with its natures.

Lámina 4. Green Gorgon


Bachelard, Gaston  (1942)   L'Eau et les rêves, Essai sur l'imagination de la matière   Paris 

Berque, Augustin  (1995)   La vue, est-elle souveraine dans l'esthétique paysagère?,   La Théorie du paysage en France, 1974-1994. Alain Roger (dir); Seyssel, Champ Vallon 

Deleuze, Gilles; Guattari, Felix  (1980)   Capitalisme et Schizophrénie, tome 2: Mille Plateaux   Les Éditions de Minuit, Collection Critique 

Guyotat, Pierre  (1967)   Tombeau pour cinq cent mille soldats   L'imaginaire, Gallimard 

Maffesoli, M.  (1988)   Du Temps des tribus (Le déclin de l'individualisme dans les sociétés postmodernes)   Paris. Troisième édition: éd. La table Ronde, Paris, 2000 ISBN 2-7103-0994-7 

Roche, François; Desdavy, Gilles; Lavaux Stéphanie (R, DSV&Sie)  (1994a)   «L'hiver de l'amour»,   Paysage, nº2, mars (aprés une exposition dans le Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris) 

Roche, François; Desdavy, Gilles; Lavaux Stéphanie (R, DSV&Sie)  (1994b)   L'Ombre du Caméléon (Trash Mimesis)   IFA/Karédas, Paris (exposition organisée par l'IFA) 

Roche, François; Marc Mimram  (1998)   Territoires, Aménagements-Déménagements   mini-PA nº19, Pavillon de l'Arsenal, Paris 


[1]: English and French versions of this text are available at R&Sie's web site, new-territories.
[2]: Brunelleschi's perspective geometry is responsible for this, in the rationalisation of instruments of production and the domination of architecture on the site. The rule of visual representation is thus substituted for corporeal perceptions.
[3]: See the notion developed by Felix Guattari in his Schizophrenia Analytic on ecosophy, that architecture has imploded and is condemned to being pulled and torn in every direction.
[4]: In sense attributed to it by M Maffesoli (1988), «History can promote a morale (a politics), the space will favour an aesthetic and exude an ethics».
[5]: «The rhizome is quite different, map and not tracing? If there is a contrast between map and tracing, it is because the map in its entirety is oriented towards an experiment to do with reality. The map does not reproduce a subconscious that is closed in on itself, it constructs it» (Gilles Deleuze and Guattari, 1980).
[6]: The original french expression is «Faire avec pour en faire moins» (R, DSV&Sie, 1994b)
[7]: «These tear the body within and seek a hole to escape through, it throws its hands on to the body and they vibrate under the fingers ; it pushes them towards the joints, towards the cavities of the belly and throat, it crushes them there, its fist digging into the skin, which, bespattered with blood beneath, turns cold.» (Guyotat, 1967)
[8]: (Edition note) A compilation of R&Sie's projects can be found in the following links within the web site new-territories: Genetic, Flux and Album de la Jeune Architecture
[9]: An installation on the stairs. The fitted carpet was laid, the height of the steps slightly altered, and the carpet relaid. A study to do with the dissociation of the senses, between what was perceived (the treads) and felt (a moving topography) (R, DSV&Sie, 1994a).
[10]: «How to live by following (not without fascination) the bulldozer's passage in the Amazonian forest and campaigning for its protection? while remaining on the razor's edge. It is with this terribly human dimension that we must work. An admittedly schizophrenic attitude, but one which preserves us from the snares of the clear conscience, environmental activism and destructive forms of extremism.» (Roche, 1998)

Edición del 1-3-2006
Amorphous mutations| Lámina 1. Shearing >>>
Boletín CF+S > 32/33: IAU+S: la Sostenibilidad en el Proyecto Arquitectónico y Urbanístico >   
Ciudades para un Futuro más Sostenible
Búsqueda | Buenas Prácticas | Documentos | Boletín CF+S | Novedades | Convocatorias | Sobre la Biblioteca | Buzón/Mailbox
Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Madrid Universidad Politécnica de Madrid
Grupo de Investigación en Arquitectura, Urbanismo y Sostenibilidad
Departamento de Estructuras y Física de la EdificaciónDepartamento de Urbanística y Ordenación del Territorio