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White sheet of paper / White beach : coloring city / coloring life


White sheet of paper / White beach : coloring city / coloring life

Exhibition on the sensitive city and urban landscape by Eric Cassar at the Première Ligne Gallery during the Architecture Agora Biennial – Bordeaux 2017 with the support of Arkhenspaces


Video of the exhibition’s presentation (audiovisual realization by Julien Darblade – in French)

Thank you to the poets Julien Blaine, Giovanni Fontana et Serge Pey for their participation in the sheet of paper/beach painting


Texture, fingerprints
Writing with feet
Writing in the city
Color the time

In my opinion, the emergence and infatuation of smart-cities is characterized by the arrival of digital technology in physical spaces and city. This new paradigm could be both a solution or a poison. It invites us to question the conception and future of our cities in the 21st century.
This is what this exhibition deals with through a series of possible signs or actions to improve the city. It is seen as a page, a beach to correct or to draw. In a city, the white sheet of paper is not the immaculate Mallarmean whiteness – which, moreover, does not exist outside thought. Whiteness is only blandness. It is urban. It is boredom.
The city is a human environment built by men both for men and for the living. A complex environment that must combine contradictory objectives: security and freedom, transparency and mystery, social bond and anonymity, efficiency and strolling etc. We must get lost and find our way at the same time. This environment must combine the ordinary and the extraordinary. Designing a city means organizing spaces and architectures, but it is also producing an art of the everyday life in the reality. An art supporting life. In order to take up the introductory metaphor, we need to add colors to create a plurality of places, atmospheres and flavors.

Arkhenspaces, the architectural firm I created by the end of 2005, has been working on nearly a hundred architectural and urban projects around the world for 11 years. From these works I extracted 11 themes that seem relevant to the conception, transformation or improvement of a city today. These themes can be combined. They can be applied differently according to places. We must not forget that building a city or building in a city is first answering questions related to a pre-defined material and immaterial context. These themes, both practical and sensitive, deliberately ignore rational problems linked to the technical management of the city, to traffic or energy. Not that the latter are secondary, on the contrary, but because they are « naturally » essential. They are always mentioned everywhere. Consequently, they tend to saturate the debate, while they are not enough to create the city. The city must be efficient still it is also the place of possible things, sensitive things, activities, dreams and exchanges.

This is what I tried to introduce through these 11 illustrated pictures with projects extracts that represent a partial list of actions that occasionally or continuously participate in making the city. The plural is important. It is not once anymore, it is and it will be sometimes:

- sometimes the open sky
- sometimes the celebrated fauna and flora
- sometimes inhabited borders
- sometimes the interstice
- sometimes the convertible city
- sometimes the praticable envelope
- sometimes the diffracted star
- sometimes the incorporated nature
- sometimes the magnified party
- sometimes the stimulated imaginary
- sometimes the spread housing (*)

The writing in the city, its color, will come in part, from those not measurable sides and too often forgotten. Because projects must not only answer to the sponsors needs but also provide more : an extra touch of soul, that some might consider insignificant or utopian, while in my opinion it is the necessary bond to live together and respect each other. This unfathomable substance that feeds the everyday life of the city-dweller, the citizen, the native, the foreigner, the permanent learner: young, old, child, active, student ; the spectator, the actor, the living, the lively. And which interrogates him, which surprises him, awakens him and raises him.

We, architects and urban planners, create media that inspire, stimulate the imaginary and multiply possible things.
Creating a city is adding wings to life. As Friedrich Hölderlin wrote in 1807 a few years after a short stay on the banks of the Garonne: « Deserving, yet poetically, we dwell on this earth « . Finally it is the richness of lives that completes the colors of our cities.

The city – the place of possibilities – lies between
between lines / between words / between architectures / between vehicles / between spaces / between city-dwellers
The between defines both a relation and a residual space possibly as a connection
One between plural
To spread


(*) details of pictures with hyperlinks to the listed projects

- sometimes the open sky The collective space (public or semi-private) can spread to heights above ground level. Nowadays towers (and bars) are often vertical dead ends. By creating places of destinations for everyone at half-height or on the roofs (equipment, restaurants, café …) and sometimes by including elevated footbridges (for example between two buildings) passages increase. We invite, open up and improve both the use and the security of these spaces.

Images from the projects (hyperlinks) : Ville Nd, Triel-sur-Seine, France, 2009 / To climb Copenhagen sky, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2008 / Ville subtile : les Minguettes 2040, Vénissieux, France, 2015

- sometimes the celebrated fauna and flora In the city nature is a way to soften the climate and to prevent floods. It promotes decarbonation and provides comfort for city dwellers. It is also a question of welcoming humans and sharing a part of our space. We need to release vegetal continuity in cities heart in order to preserve biodiversity. It will also offer leisure space, resourcing, and the production of porosities between city and countryside.

Images from projects : To climb Copenhagen sky, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2008 / Villa la Sousta, Hyères, France, 2003-2006

- sometimes inhabited borders It is a question of reconsidering urban limits, edges and barriers both physical and virtual (highways, railways, etc …). We must not always seek to erase them. On the contrary, sometimes we must manage to take advantage of their properties, to transform them into a place, a center able to attract and bring the inhabitants together.

Images and video from the project : Descartes Ecocity, Champs-sur-Marne, France, 2015

- sometimes the interstice Live the unlivable or see the invisible. The reality we see is only a part of it. New digital tools allow us to see more and better (augmented reality). This requires to develop simultaneously physical and digital architecture of new spaces. We need to partition the reality into different superimposed layers combining information, spaces and individuals. A good organization of relations or connections allows users to better understand all accessible properties (concerning places or inhabitants) according to their needs and desires (climatic properties, space affluence, use, information on traffic, people etc.).
In parallel or on the contrary, it is necessary to develop loopholes, hollows (voids) in the heart of our cities networks. We always need to think both about connection and disconnection.

Images and video from the project : Descartes Ecocity, Champs-sur-Marne, France, 2015 / City Interstices, Kaohsiung, Taiwan, 2013

- sometimes the convertible city This picture invites us to question the resilience of our cities. Climate change, heat and cold waves increase, multiply and lengthen. The city must be able to adapt to a variety of climate typologies because what is effective in winter is often counterproductive in summer and vice versa. Flexibility is one of the keys to this: the folding reed is more resistant to the storm than oak. Adaptation could consist of developing mobile or removable systems, which means automated or requiring human intervention to physically transform a building over short or long periods (from a few hours to a season). For example, covering some parts of the streets during summer would be one of the answers to the protection of cities against hot weather.
This proposal contributes to the multiplication and diversification of urban micro-climates which seems to me to be an essential action to provide comfort for everyone, while answering to the variety of climate change consequences.

Images from the projects : Phoenix Palace, Fengshan, Taiwan, 2014 / Route 5G, 2017

- sometimes the practicable envelope A part of an office building double envelope also serves as climbing routes. The roof, whether flat or sloping, can release public, private or shared spaces, with uses to invent: garden, sports field, public square…

Images from the projects : Yamakasi, Stains, France, 2011 / Cascade gardens, Hong-Kong, 2007

- sometimes the diffracted star Stationary or moving devices can reflect the sun’s rays on facades, squares or streets. They increase the brightness locally causing the appearance of light effects in dark spaces or prolongation of sunshine duration (especially in the winter for dark territories). These systems can only work a part of the year. They participate in the creation of different urban micro-climates. This picture is a tribute to the poets Isle and Pierre Garnier and their spatial poetry.

Images from the projects : Villa D, Viroflay, France, 2010-2012 / [Sun] Museum, Helsinki, Finland, 2014

- sometimes the incorporated nature This picture invites to think architecture in close relation with biotope. The vegetation is not a decoration. Nature must sometimes be able to appropriate architecture. It is about producing synergies. It is to think with each other and not always one next to the other.

Images and video from the projects : Tamula terraced sky area, Vorù, Estonia, 2008 / Villa la Sousta, Hyères, France, 2003-2006

- sometimes the magnified party The instrumentower is a sound and visual instrument on the city scale. It can work alone (once or twice a day). It can interact with other instrumentowers located in other territories and also serve as a complementary instrument for artists during concerts or exceptional events. It singles out a city and naturally becomes a meeting point for any type of ceremony. It makes possible and promotes the setting up of events.

Images and video from the projects : Instrumentower, Taichung, Taiwan, 2011 / Hyperborea, Moscow, Russia, 2013 / Mirage, excerpt from Poursuites, 2000

- sometimes the stimulated imaginary The theme could have been « sometimes the poetic city » but I have difficulty with this word. It seems to me that it is enough to name the word poetry so that de facto its substance disappears. Because the poetry is in between, in the blur, the mystery, the extraordinary… It is about spreading poems-signs in the city, particularly with the help of the climatic material, digital or alive (human interactions).

Images from research : Subtle City, 2014 / Je t’aime, excerpt from Poursuites, 2000

- sometimes the spread housing This picture presents our recent work that explores new ways of living in the digital age. It is about designing spaces where the private permanent area is reduced in favor of a variety of shared spaces managed by the digital. The consequences are an amplification of social bonds, facilitated exchanges, increased living spaces and many added services. The collective conception of a physical architecture with a digital architecture succeeds in multiplying local resources.

Images from the project : Endless Home, 2017

Eric Cassar 2017


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