Alter Architecture : Here, there & differently
Alter Architecture
Here, there & differently
Christine de Schaetzen, April 2, 2007
The Mortar shel hut_Fiona Meadows_Cameroon and Chad
The Mortar shel hut_Fiona Meadows_Cameroon and Chad


Like alter-globalisation, “alter architecture” envisages a different way of conceiving of the built environment, one that takes into account the constraints linked to modern society as well as the need to protect the environment and the characteristics of the site in which it develops (climate, lifestyle, etc.). In the age of globalisation, it is a question of reflecting on the positioning of architecture in relation to its programme, and on possible alternatives in the face of an increasing uniformity that is ill-suited to the needs of man and of the planet.  

The Architecture Fondation proposes a trip around the world, discovering architectural cultures of diverse nature. Whether urban or rural, permanent or temporary, created by architects or not, they may differ in form but are essentially the same in substance. They have in common their links to cultural and constructive traditions, respecting their built or natural environment and having recourse to recyclable materials that consume little energy and cause little pollution. Bringing them together in this way serves to highlight these points of convergence that constitute a lesson for the architecture of the future.  

This simultaneous presentation of works of past and present and from “here and there” is an invitation to explore the themes of the universality of regionalism and the potential of artisanal construction, in particular through the development of technologies and the dissemination of information. Through these urban and rural architectures that respect a number of identical codes and that are rooted in the past, the exhibition stresses the importance of building on the lessons and experiences of previous and pre-industrial generations, while also taking into account adaptations to new mentalities and advanced technologies.

The journey offers an exceptional collection of pictures gathered together by experts in Europe, China, Asia, North and South America, Africa, Greenland, etc. It explores the various themes in the form of photographic reproductions, plans, models, objects, materials and constructions erected in the journey hall itself.

Kustendorf
Kustendorf


The Philippe Rotthier European Prize for Architecture 2005

For 25 years, the architect Philippe Rotthier searched throughout Europe for new architectures that reflected the spirit of a site, met contemporary demands for comfort and respected the ecology; architectures that mould into the town and landscape without destroying it, that waste neither energy nor space; architectures that establish a dialogue with the past and with history. Philippe Rotthier undertook to pursue this quest through an architecture prize. The works are selected by juries consisting not only of architects but also writers, journalists, artists, art historians and politicians. The preferences invariable go to little known architectures lying outside the small circles of the initiated:


Kustendorf house
Kustendorf house


Marcel Kalberer_The flexible vegetal structures
Marcel Kalberer_The flexible vegetal structures


The flexible vegetal structures of Marcel Kalberer  (Germany)

It was his interest in one of the most ancient construction systems in the world, that of the plaited reeds used 5000 years ago by the Mesopotamians to build their homes, that gave Marcel Kalberer the idea of producing, from 1984, flexible vegetal structures using branches of willow planted in the ground. By bending and assembling them he invented natural, living and evolving shelters in the form of tunnels, domes, pavilions, palaces or cathedrals. To produce these hybrid constructions the architect used schoolchildren and other volunteers from various European countries with sometimes as many as 600 working on a single site. The modern-day follies of Marcel Kalberer erected in parks on the occasion of commemorative events have rapidly become very popular tourist attractions.  


Marcel Kalberer_The flexible vegetal structures
Marcel Kalberer_The flexible vegetal structures


Marcel Kalberer_The flexible vegetal structures
Marcel Kalberer_The flexible vegetal structures


Hakkas dwellings_André Stevens_Fujian_China
Hakkas dwellings_André Stevens_Fujian_China


The Hakka dwellings in China by André Stevens

The Younding district of Fujian Province (southeast China) is home to the Hakka, an ethic group whose language, customs and even dietary habits differ from the rest of the Chinese population. Their architecture is akin to genuine “earthen social housing” rising to a height of 20 metres and quadrangular or circular in shape. A whole clan, that is sometimes as many as 400 people, live in just one of these buildings, entirely turned in upon itself for safety reasons but open to all the neighbours whether opposite or adjacent. As all forms of popular architecture in China, these dwellings were denigrated during the Maoist period when the focus was on solid buildings as symbols of modernism and progress. Nevertheless, local populations are continuing to build in the same style and continuing to use the technique of the adobe, even if today the buildings are no longer of such phenomenal dimensions.


Hakkas dwellings_André Stevens_Fujian_China
Hakkas dwellings_André Stevens_Fujian_China


Hakkas dwellings_André Stevens_Fujian_China
Hakkas dwellings_André Stevens_Fujian_China


Nader Khalili_Sandbag shelters
Nader Khalili_Sandbag shelters


Les « Sandbag Shelters» de Nader Khalili Julian Faulkner, Janos Bozo, Hooman Fazny

American architect Nader Khalili (originally from Iran) is one of the rare architects concerned of the billion human without shelter. For Nader Khalili, founder of the Cal-Earth Institute (1991) in the desert of Mojave in California, the solution is simple: he use a material which one finds everywhere, the ground. Khalili developed a technique called Super Adobe to design “ Sandbag shelter” (shelter of sandbags), also called “Emergency shelter” (emergency shelter) whose construction requires neither particular qualification, nor expensive transportation, only a minimum requires of raw materials and is built quickly by a team from 3 to 5 people.

Nader Khalili_Sandbag shelters
Nader Khalili_Sandbag shelters


It sort of igloo made up of bags filled with sand, piled up the ones on the others. Two materials of war are recycled for peaceful purposes: bags or long tubes filled with sand and barbed wire. These “Eco domes” resist the earthquakes, the hurricanes, the floods and isolate from the cold, of heat and of the noise…. A house of five rooms (34m2) can offer to a family a sustainable dwell. The technique of Super Adobe can be used for to build silos, schools, of the hospitals, or others infrastructures such as dams, roads, bridges or to stabilize rivers. In addition, these structures are biodegradable. The system proved reliable with large scale in Iran in 1994, when the country had to accomodate thousands of Iraqi refugees. In 2004, the structure of Nader Khalili obtained the triennial price Aga Khan. Recently, the Institute Cal-Earth acquired a ground in Spain in order to build the first European center Cal-Earth.

Nader Khalili_Sandbag shelters
Nader Khalili_Sandbag shelters


Olivier Delarozière and Ursula Gleeson
Olivier Delarozière and Ursula Gleeson


Constructions in wood shavings by Olivier Delarozière & Ursula Gleeson

Wood shavings are an inevitable by-product of any sawmill and the recycling of this wood waste is a significant component of the timber sector. As wood shavings are often transformed into panels or charcoal, why not use them in constructions? When worked into well-calibrated and solid slabs they resemble bricks, which can be stacked to create very stable walls and corbelled domes, using computing tools as an aid. The surprising results obtained by this architecture and its experimentation, in particular the forester’s houses found in Eastern Europe, are described through exceptional documents. A hut made of wood shavings will be created especially for the exhibition.  


André Ravéreau
André Ravéreau


André Ravéreau and the fascination with an aesthetic (Algeria) by Philippe Lauwers

In 1949, the French architect André Ravéreau, who was working in Algiers, travelled to Ghardaïa, in the  M’Zab Valley (Algeria), where he set about studying the architecture of a town whose aesthetics immediately fascinated and charmed him. The inhabitants of the M’Zab are known as Ibadites, an offshoot of the Muslim community who settled in this practically virgin valley in around the 11th century and who managed to apply the demands of a religion, a philosophy and a social life to the conception of a human space and its built domain for a period of 1,000 years. Their architecture shows an exceptional purity of conception, escaping formalisms and perfectly adapted to the climate. André Ravéreau saw in the M’Zab both the rigour of Perret and the exciting forms found in Le Corbusier, whose constructions were marked by the lessons of the M’Zab.


Tell Beydar_Syria
Tell Beydar_Syria


The house-village of Tell Beydar (Syria) by André Stevens

Built by André Stevens (Belgium) and Mohamad Garad (Syria), the Tell Beydar house-village is designed to accommodate an archaeological mission of about 50 members. It is built on a section of the former circular perimeter wall of the town of Nabda (2,400 BC), using the traditional technique of green brick made of earth mixed with water and chopped straw. The walls are 50-75 centimetres thick and the roofs are sugarloaf domes or constructed with logs of  populus euphratica surmounted with boards, a straw bed and a waterproof finish in beaten down earth. To limit the use of wood, the architects used the corbelled arch as already used 5000 years ago. This architectural variation on Arab and Mesopotamian themes is both an agreeable residence and an exceptional training site.


Bamboo house
Bamboo house


The bamboo structures of Simon Velez in Colombia by Analía Garcia Ramirez

Bamboo is a giant member of the grasses family. Its hollow morphology and regular knots render it more resistant than steel, relatively non-flammable and supple, light and flexible. It resists solvency in water better than wood, does not rust, is waterproof and rotproof and needs no working. A natural resource available in inexhaustible quantities, and resistant to earthquake, bamboo is nevertheless being replaced by concrete and bricks, especially in South America. The famous Colombian architect  Simon Velez combines Colombian tradition and structural design, ecology and the most avant-garde technology in his use of this material.  


The Mortar shel hut_Fiona Meadows_Cameroon and Chad
The Mortar shel hut_Fiona Meadows_Cameroon and Chad


The “mortar shell” hut, history and reconstruction (Cameroon & Chad) Institut Français d’Architecture & Patrimoine Sans Frontières

The “mortar shell” hut is an earth and grass construction found in North Cameroon and Chad and inhabited by the Musgums, a population of fishermen and pony breeders. Built on a circular plan and superposing successive bases to create structures that can be as much as 15 to 20 metres high, these huts were genuine colonial curiosities. The association Patrimoine sans frontières, responsible for preserving traditional Musgum architecture, launched a training site that resulted in the construction of a complete development of five of these “mortar shell” huts, thanks to a rediscovery of local know-how.  


Hacienda house_Latin America
Hacienda house_Latin America


The haciendas of the Andes (Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia) by André Stevens

Part of the Andes cordillera, the Ecuadorian Andes surround and protect a long series of small basins. A dream décor for the siting of haciendas, the large rural estates which are the fruit of the Hispanic and evangelist influence on the lands conquered in the XVIth century by the conquistadors. The common characteristics of the haciendas are the presence of one or more metalled patios around which the various building elements are erected, with a gallery running round the exterior that protects the occupants from the rain and sun, the presence of a chapel and a granary as a separate building. Despite a number of private initiatives that permitted their restoration, many of these constructions have been abandoned in this region. Attracting attention to this little known patrimony of fascinating “ecological’ architecture can only encourage its promotion as a feature of the architectural patrimony and landscape, both nationally and universally.


Yazd_Iran
Yazd_Iran


The badgirs (wind towers) of Iran by Hervé Richard & Shiva Tolouie

The badgir, which literally means “wind catcher”, is a traditional structure used to provide passive air conditioning for buildings by circulating the prevailing wind from the rooftops to the living areas as a means of ventilating and cooling them. These decorated chimneys that are found throughout the Middle East can be made of brick, earth or limestone. Currently facing competition from commercial air-conditioners, these passive and efficient devices deserve to be studied not only as a bio-climatic solution but much more comprehensively in the context of landscape, form, use, construction, maintenance, utility and heritage.  


Green Architecture_Green Roofs_North America
Green Architecture_Green Roofs_North America


Green architecture in the USA by Benjamin Jacquemet & Carolyn Wittendal

Whereas “green architecture” is most often motivated by an “ecological” or aesthetic desire, “living architecture” that uses construction systems that are essentially based on plants and other natural materials represents a genuine economic and social alternative. In the USA, green architecture is integrated in urban development policies and many traditional and vernacular techniques are incorporated in the usual construction methods (glass, wood and vegetal matter). This section of the exhibition shows the practices and applications of contemporary green architecture in the United States.

Uummanaq_Greenland
Uummanaq_Greenland


Uummanaq is a small town 600km north of the polar circle, located on a 12 sq. km island, at the foot of a heart-shaped hill that has given the town its name. Since the 15th century, this place has been an Inuit winter settlement, and welcomes today a traditional fishermen and hunter’s community of 2,700 dwellers, half of them disseminated in the seven neighbouring villages. Since the fifties, traditional tents and peat houses left their place to single-family wooden kit housing, imported from Denmark, and built by the inhabitants on the community land (the private property of land no longer exists). The harsh conditions of living - two months of total darkness (the polar night), temperatures dropping below minus 30°C, a nine months a year frozen see, and thousands of icebergs fallen from the most active glaciers in the world - impose a self-sufficient way of life upon the community for the most part of the year, while it’s still needing the same community services as in any European city: hospitals, schools, thermal power station, etc. The daily life in Uummanaq is a wonderful illustration of how humans can adapt to the harshest conditions.