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I love Lacaton and Vassal! - click opera — LiveJournal
February 2010
 
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Sun, Aug. 27th, 2006 10:42 am
I love Lacaton and Vassal!

Impromptu and somewhat a l'improviste I ended up spending three days in Paris this week. But by "Paris" I suppose I mean a succession of familiar, updated and new interiors. There were the apartments of my friends Gilles and Flo, of course, and there was Naniwaya, the delightfully domestic Japanese cafe and grocery on the Rue St Anne. There was Tang Freres in the 13th arrondissement Chinatown, and pho restaurant Hawaii (which I thought had closed down, but is open again). There was Colette, the Mitterand Library, a new floating swimming pool on the Seine, the red Comme des Garcons "relaxation space", Japanese bookstore Junkudu, and the Guimet Museum. But most of all there was the Palais de Tokyo.



The Palais de Tokyo is my exemplary interior space, and not just in Paris. I think it might be my favourite place in the entire world. I just feel so comfortable hanging out in its shabby -- yet beautifully coloured and lit -- monumental spaces. In a sense it's the world's most chic student union, and probably I'm an eternal student. It caters to all my needs; I can eat there, watch films, browse the art magazines and books in the bookstore, see art, pee or poo, hang out watching interesting-looking characters, glimpse people I know (an old Berlin crush strolled by at one point, in Paris for the Radiohead shows), eat again, attend a special event about an art commune in Chiang Mai, Thailand called The Land Foundation. I can do all this from midday to midnight. And I can sense the benign, playful, intelligent and liberal presence of the museum's creators and curators, above all Jerome Sans and Nicolas Bourriaud, inventors of the chilled "relational aesthetics" of which the Palais de Tokyo is still one of the best examples.



You could, of course, make a case against the building. You could say that it's "bobo fascist" (the building dates from 1937, and it's certainly doing "elegant slumming" today). You could reproach it for making a bad faith simulation of the post-industrial warehouse or schoolhouse style of institutions like PS1 in New York or Kunst-Werke in Berlin, and accuse it of being a faked, top-down version of those more grassroots cultural organisations. Personally, I'm not impressed by those arguments. The Palais de Tokyo just... works.

So I ended up spending two of my Paris days there, immersing myself in the jungle-like atmosphere of Tropico-Vegetal, the big eco-nature show that ended its run this weekend. I blogged about the show last month, but it really needed to be seen in the flesh and forest canopy. I spent the most time in Sergio Vega's installation; I've been a fan of his lush, playful work since seeing it at the Venice Biennale last year. His lily pads, crocodiles, easy chairs and fish tanks felt like a small, relaxing theme park, a 1970s Brazilian Embassy or hotel lobby. To see small children playing with his "crocodile trains" was delightful. Although it's far from hard-hitting, aggressive, contentious or controversial, Vega's work has a quirky, sensual humanity which I find very valuable.



But I wanted to pay tribute today to the architects who transformed the Palais de Tokyo into the place I feel so at home in. The building was re-opened in 2002 after a €4m make-over by Bordeaux-based architects Lacaton and Vassal. Appropriately enough for architects from a city associated with red wine, the couple focus on conviviality in their work. They also love cheapness, favouring materials like corrugated plastic and iron, and borrowing from forms like greenhouses, North African markets, and huts. Vassal is French, but was born in Casablanca, Morocco, and the pair have worked on projects in Niger, so there's a "learning from Africa" aspect to their textures -- and their prices. Their ability to work cheaply hasn't endeared them to other French architects, who feel they've lowered architecture's standards, and above all its premium prices. But I personally love cheapness as an aesthetic; to me, few finished structures are as beautiful as the building sites which precede them, with their half-plastered walls, exposed-cables, brightly-coloured plastic buckets, hazard tape and harsh lights on tripods. Imagine that aesthetic crossed with some temporary buildings where vineyard labourers rest and relax after a hard day picking grapes and you have the feel.



My interest in Anne Lacaton and Jean Philippe Vassal's work was triggered by a beautifully illustrated feature on them in the current edition of Kidswear magazine (a brilliant magazine, which incidentally published a short story of mine a couple of years ago). I've been googling them, and I can tell you a bunch of stuff about them.

* Vassal says that "air and flowers” are the two most important things in their work.
* For Lacaton, 90% of what you need to make a building is already present on the site. In Africa they learned from people’s resourcefulness and how existing materials are endlessly used, reused and hybridised with very little waste.
* “It is really incredible to see how African people can use a lot of different materials, the materials they have around themselves,” says Vassal. “They can find the simplest way to make the minimum essential things fit for a purpose.”
* “There is a clear line of criticism in France. French architects find Lacaton and Vassal’s position problematic as it gives politicians reasons to cut budgets. If, as they are doing in Nantes architecture school, you can give twice the space for the same budget, why not cut the budget in half? This is the big fear. But on a more subconscious level, their aesthetic of roughness is not like the typical French elegance of Perrault or Nouvel.” Critic Andreas Ruby
* "Their vision of social space is pervasive, inspired, partly, by the Djemaa El-Fnaa market square of Marrakesh -- a space of movement and change, constantly formed and reformed by the whim of its actors." Art in Process
* "The question of monumentality for me is no longer important, and you can replace this by other things which are generosity and poetry, and to make something where people can have some emotions." Vassal.
* In a competition for the Architecture Foundation's new building at Bankside, London (won by a horrible sharky thing by Zaha Hadid), Lacaton and Vassal proposed a building dominated by a giant statue of a woman in her underwear.
* In a 1999 manifesto the couple wrote: "Dwellings. Too much comfort. We do not have extraordinary architectures because of a bit too much--middle-class--comfort. New ways of living in, and living. The House: inventing something else, getting rid of foundations, mobility, nomadism. Cost: cost-cutting, the right means, as inexpensive as possible to build more... Architecture will be straightforward, useful, precise, cheap, free, jovial, poetic and cosmopolitan. It'll be nice tomorrow."

I don't know about tomorrow, but it certainly was beautiful on Wednesday and Thursday.

26CommentReply

cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
Sun, Aug. 27th, 2006 09:17 am (UTC)

Momus, I am going to Paris with my class sometime either this year or next year. Any other sights and views that you think are worth visiting?

Oh, by the way, we are combining the trip with culture history, so, do you know any good places in Paris that are from the Baroque era?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Aug. 27th, 2006 09:21 am (UTC)

You should just wander, dérive. It's very dense, and there's extraordinary stuff at every turn. I basically listed my personal Paris tour in the first paragraph. It's mostly Asian Paris, but that's me, you know me by now!


ReplyThread Parent
cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
Sun, Aug. 27th, 2006 09:27 am (UTC)

Dérive, eh? I'll give it a shot, maybe I find something obscure... Maybe I'll spot Toog or Anne!

Know you? It is a bit of a "maybe-perhaps-guess so" answer on that one!


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nicepimmelkarl
.
Sun, Aug. 27th, 2006 12:15 pm (UTC)

you might find this man buying vegetables, cap. just one moment i slap the knobs of fate. yes you will.
pigalle, my son.

http://www.westnet.com/consumable/1995/April28.1995/revmalco.html


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cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
Sun, Aug. 27th, 2006 01:09 pm (UTC)

We all buy vegetables!


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nicepimmelkarl
.
Sun, Aug. 27th, 2006 07:01 pm (UTC)

oh hell yes. i'm eating 26 different types every evening. usually washed down with 2 litres of table wine munching ginger as a starter. garlic. onions. mint. petersilie. i bury my nose in it. lemon juice goes everywhere. the boesendorfer. my bird reciting yannis ritsos poems. the naked chef. the church bells go off like a gamelan orchestra. i'm alive !! i'm alive !!! i go swimming every morning. yes. that's zorba mountain over there on the horizon. anthony quinn. raki. shot shot shot. no way i'm getting married.


ReplyThread Parent
sparkligbeatnic
sparkligbeatnic
Sun, Aug. 27th, 2006 12:31 pm (UTC)


How was the presentation on the Land Foundation? They had something at a show I saw in June at the Amsterdam Stedelijk called "Mapping the Studio".


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Aug. 27th, 2006 02:04 pm (UTC)

How was the presentation on the Land Foundation?

I had mixed feelings about that. Five hectares in Chiang Mai is going to be photogenic whatever you do, and of course it looked great. But the presentations were all a bit haphazard, and I got no sense that any good art was coming out of the foundation. A bald, Spock-like Buddhist monk called up various volunteers to describe the LF, and they seemed like back-packer types. They all said "It's really impossible to describe what goes on there." Then we were given some free food, which was tasty enough. But it all felt a bit like an introduction to some kind of New Age cult to me. I left before they asked us to "drink the Kool-Aid".


ReplyThread Parent
sparkligbeatnic
sparkligbeatnic
Sun, Aug. 27th, 2006 11:45 pm (UTC)


Sounds like a new-age power trip. I suppose the curators must be aware of what's up. Or are they just suckers for this sort of thing?

At the Stedelijk they had some photos of their plantation as well as some romantic and utopian sounding statements. On the opposite wall, the final display of the exhibition, was a collage of photos of Andy Warhol's Factory in its heyday. What kind of power trip was that?


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Aug. 28th, 2006 04:48 am (UTC)

I suppose the curators must be aware of what's up. Or are they just suckers for this sort of thing?

Well, it was one of about ten talks related to the Tropico-Vegetal show, and I can see how it fitted in as "one fragment in the mosaic". My "where's the art?" response makes little sense within the Relational Aesthetics framework; the art, in that context, is simply people relating to each other in an experimental community in Thailand. They don't need to produce convincing objects at all. But I also didn't see anything like "new social relations" emerging, unless you consider a relationship between backpacking European students and Vipassana Technique Buddhists a "new social relation".


ReplyThread Parent
sparkligbeatnic
sparkligbeatnic
Mon, Aug. 28th, 2006 07:01 am (UTC)


I don't know enough about them to comment further, but checking the archives at the Stedelijk, notice they gave a workshop in May. So maybe the "new social relations" part is about traipsing around the various contemporary art centres in Europe and the rest of world trying to drum up interest and support? ;-)

Probably not so interesting after all. I stumbled on a more interesting art centre southwest of Chiang Mai started by a local who had studied in Paris, had been successful in NYC in the 60s, and did a quite good fusion of minimalist sculpture, Fluxus, and primitivism. Can't remember his name off the top of my head. His English wife was doing some very literal, kitsch, sculptural interpretations of Abhidhamma. They also seemed to have a Gandhian thing going on.


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sparkligbeatnic
sparkligbeatnic
Mon, Aug. 28th, 2006 07:24 am (UTC)

unless you consider a relationship between backpacking European students and Vipassana Technique Buddhists a "new social relation"

BTW, I've tried it, and it's an interesting and valuable experience. The Goenka brand is pretty widespread, but my estimation is that it's not a "cult", or, at least, a fairly benign one.

The Land Foundation, on the other hand, seems like something I can probably do without trying.




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(Anonymous)
Sun, Aug. 27th, 2006 12:34 pm (UTC)
Love

Oooh, I think I love them too...what better resourceful strategy
for here in the USA, where there is no funding for anything?
Thank you for the wonderful links.


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akabe
akabe
alin huma
Sun, Aug. 27th, 2006 02:54 pm (UTC)

the palais de tokyo IS the best art-space in the world. it strikes such a fine balance between so many things. i wonder if, when and how it's going to date.


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Aug. 27th, 2006 03:25 pm (UTC)
Wasted pasting

I was very drunk last night - did I by any chance vandalise your Click opera pages, or was it a dream I had? I remember making some kind of meta-collage using the LiveJournal "From" and "Subject" buttons. If I did do this, I am sorry.

ph




ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Aug. 27th, 2006 03:29 pm (UTC)
Re: Wasted pasting

It was all just a bad dream, ph. We all have them from time to time. Thank heavens we usually wake up and realize our destructions were imaginary.


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Aug. 27th, 2006 04:01 pm (UTC)
Re: Wasted pasting


I will call for you, Nick -
Tonight, while I pick
Deleriously at the bedclothes!

Plunging Hen.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Sun, Aug. 27th, 2006 06:31 pm (UTC)
Re: Wasted pasting

I will call for you, Nick -
Tonight, while I pick
Deliriously at the bedclothes!

Plunging Hen.


ReplyThread Parent
nicepimmelkarl
.
Sun, Aug. 27th, 2006 07:10 pm (UTC)
Re: Wasted pasting

stop it justin !!!


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Sun, Aug. 27th, 2006 08:50 pm (UTC)
Slightly off-topic question about Aberdeen -

Dear Momus - I'm a longtime reader and a great admirer of your sensibility; I'm moving to Aberdeen (from Los Angeles) in September. Since you're talking about beautiful interior spaces and architecture anyway . . . are there places you can recommend in the Granite City? Things about it you found sympathetic and worthy? I know it's been a while, but aesthetes often have good memories, and I'd love to be in the city with your version of it as a facet of my compound eye.

(If you don't want to shift the conversation here, you can email me at finn@mavo.nu.)

Sorry to derail. Many thanks. Finn


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Aug. 27th, 2006 09:03 pm (UTC)
Re: Slightly off-topic question about Aberdeen -

http://www.swiftpharmacy.net/images/splash_01_a.jpg


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Aug. 27th, 2006 10:32 pm (UTC)
Re: Slightly off-topic question about Aberdeen -

Aberdeen has a flinty granite charm; "the Paris of the north", they call it. It's a silvery gothic city lit by low glinty light (continues purple prose for another 25 pages)... and I'd recommend the municipal art gallery, Gray's School of Art, and perhaps a car trip to Banchory.

But good lord, the contrast with Los Angeles will have coloured helium bubbles floating out of your mouth and up into the tartan sky!


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Aug. 28th, 2006 12:55 am (UTC)
The light, the froth

Not only do I live in LA the centerless web of light, the LA of the sweet powder-blue padding of frothy quinceaneras, candy-apple red Guadalajara-flagged pickup trucks, mercury-vapor streetlights and Koreatown neon . . . but I work in the movie industry, so it's also the LA of Pantone colour swatch books, Klieg lights that can tan you in the permanent gloom of the soundstage, and gangs of people (many of them UK nationals) who talk of nothing but the temperature of colours, the pop of bright surfaces. Going to miss it.

Of course, if you ever come through Aberdeen (in the next three or four years) it would be my pleasure to take you out to dinner; we can wear dazzling waistcoats in Futurist colors. (I'm joining the Centre for Modern Thought - a group I think you might find interesting: http://www.abdn.ac.uk/modernthought/.)

Gracias -


ReplyThread Parent
fishwithissues
fishwithissues
jordan fish
Sun, Aug. 27th, 2006 11:43 pm (UTC)

Lacation


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Nov. 2nd, 2006 08:21 pm (UTC)
Pompiliy

nice project with good design and pictures...best wishes...;-))


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postsquotes
postsquotes
postsquotes
Thu, Jan. 21st, 2016 01:42 am (UTC)
Wow

wow !! I love them too ♥


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