-An exceptionally gifted mind could design thinking about everything at once, minimising the time necessary to think and make, and verbally comunicating it to whoever was in charge of materialising this design in a clear, precise and complete way. He could also produce one drawing which contained all the necessary information for the builder. His constructions could last a thousand years, ever adapting to all the changes and accidents, ever improving. They would make everybody happier.

-If this supermind also had an extremely gifted body, he could build this design by itself, without getting tired or sweating, and no drawing should be produced. No energy and material would be wasted on the way.

-Average minds make up these capacities for learnt tools, direct experience, constant learning and dedication, practicing everyday, organising the process in steps.  We use drawing to verify thoughts and to explain to somebody else the actions they have to carry in a clear, precise and complete way.


-If at most architecture schools no design methodology is explained, is it possible to make one from direct experience?

-Yes. Unfortunately methodology is a word that carries some closing, snobbish meaning, and that sometimes is used as an excuse to validate dubious ways of doing. We prefer to make a cartography. 

-Why do you call it a cartography?

-Cartography is the study and practice of making maps. These steps are not meant to give absolute answers, or unveil the ultimate truth about architecture. Neither they are a way to show our colleagues how clever we are. They are just a humble, honest way of clarifying and helping builders who are young and on a journey, so they can start finding their own questions.

-The design process is overrated. What is really important is its outcome. But yet the steps towards this outcome is seldom really explained or reflected on. This is a common paradox in learning to become a builder.  In the end, each builder finds its own way of making, depending on its environment and character.

-So how is this process?

-The steps we follow are:

1. Data foraging (COMMISSION AND EXISTENCES). 

-We need to listen to the site and the future dwellers.

-We need to observe, forage and harvest all the pre-existences in order to give a proper diagnose later on and understand what is necessary. What can be reused. What needs to be repaired. What needs to be emptied. What needs to be substituted. What needs to be added. The more we can use from what’s already there, the better. But now we just observe and collect.

-So now is it more about listening than about talking?

-In the dialogue which is to make architecture, the builder first must listen. First we read. Then we write, but just if it’s necessary.

 


-We must become experts in the dweller and the physical, climatic and social environment. We listen to the needs of the dwellers and the site in order to fulfill them. We must visit the site under different climatic conditions. What is obvious on our first visit can sometimes bring misleading approaches. It is important to go back, to learn more, to ask more questions, to get closer yet keep a critical distance.

-We also need to know the resources, materials and labor availability. 

-It could seem that this first step can be done by anyone, it’s just to regard and to note. But it isn’t so. A specific training is needed, which should start not later than the first year at the university, although it should be taught at the schools. A training that is not really inclusive and polytechnic, becomes useless in the long term. We should help our children to learn to think and understand the principles of things.


-Which are the preexistences?

-The commission, the future dwellers, the climate, the topography, geology, ecosystems, history, techniques and material availability, are important parts of the existences. Some are from out of the site, others come from far, the others are in the commission. We need to integrate all the data related with the how (resources, techniques) in this stadium. This starting point is dynamic, not static. 

-What documents do we produce here?

-In this phase we don’t imagine anything yet, nor we draw. The result of this process is a list with multiple relations. It doesn't necessarily have to follow any order, we must register every data that we gather, either from direct or indirect observation. The more time and intensity we can devote to this step, the better.
The way we think, the way we see -the way we are- will always determine the elements on this list. However, it is important to do a thorough research so we don't miss any important factor. 


LITTLE PATHS (Case studies):

  • Aboriginal architecture (case study #6 ). Know your territory.

EXCURSIONS (Short exercises for young builders while on a journey):

  • Visit the site as many times as possible, under different weather conditions, in different times of the day, under different humours. Make a list of all the initial data -what's already there. Don't forget anything, even if it doesn't seem important.

LITTLE TEXTS:

  • Tentative d'épuisement d'un lieu parisien. Georges Perec. Cause Commune, 1975.
    'Il y a beaucoup de choses place Saint-Sulpice, par exemple : une mairie , un hôtel des finances  , un commissariat de police  , trois cafés dont un fait tabac, un cinéma, une église  à laquelle ont travaillé Le Vau  Gittard  Oppenord  Servandoni et  Chalgrin  et qui est dédiée à un aumônier de Clotaire Il  qui fut évêque de Bourges de 624 à 644 et que l'on fête le 17 janvier, un éditeur  , une entreprise de pompes funèbres, une agence de voyages, un arrêt d' autobus  , un tailleur, un hôtel  , une fontaine que décorent les statues des quatre grands orateurs chrétiens  (  Bossuet  Fénelon  ,  Fléchier et Massillon  ) , un kiosque  à journaux, un marchand d'objets de piété , un parking, un institut de beauté, et bien d'autres choses encore. 
    Un grand nombre, sinon la plupart, de ces choses ont été décrites inventoriées, photographiées, racontées ou recensées. Mon propos dans les pages qui suivent a plutôt été de décrire le reste : ce que l'on ne note généralement pas, ce qui ne se remarque pas, ce qui n'a pas d'importance : ce qui se passe quand il ne se passe rien, sinon du temps, des gens, des voitures  et des nuages  .  
     
    1  
    La date : 18 octobre 1974 
    L'heure   10 h. 30  
    Le lieu   Tabac Saint-Sulpice
    Le temps : Froid sec.  Ciel gris.  Quelques éclaircies. 
      
    Esquisse d'un inventaire de quelques-unes des choses strictement visibles : 
    — Des lettres de l'alphabet, des mots « KLM  » (sur la pochette d'un promeneur), un « P » majuscule qui signifie « parking » « Hôtel Récamier  », « St-Raphaël  », « l'épargne à la dérive », « Taxis tête de station », « Rue du Vieux-Colombier  », «Brasserie-bar La Fontaine Saint-Sulpice », « P ELF  », «Parc SaintSulpice ». 
    — Des symboles conventionnels : des flèches  , sous le « P » des parkings, l'une légèrement pointée vers le sol, l'autre orientée en direction de la rue Bonaparte  (côté Luxembourg  ), au moins quatre panneaux de sens interdit  (un cinquième en reflet dans une des glaces du café). 
    — Des chiffres : 86 (au sommet d'un autobus de la ligne no 86, surmontant l'indication du lieu où il se rend : S aint-Germain-desPrés ) , 1 (plaque du no 1 de la rue du Vieux-Colombier  ), 6 (sur la place indiquant que nous nous trouvons dans le 6e arrondissement de Paris). 
    — Des slogans fugitifs : « De l' autobus , je regarde Paris » 
    — De la terre : du gravier tassé et du sable. 
    — De la pierre : la bordure des trottoirs, une fontaine  , une église  , des maisons... 
    — De l'asphalte 
    — Des arbres ( feuilles, souvent jaunissants  
    — Un morceau assez grand de ciel (peut-être 1/6e de mon champ visuel) 
    — Une nuée de pigeons  qui s'abat soudain sur le terre-plein central, entre  l'église  et la fontaine  
    — Des véhicules  (leur  inventaire  reste à faire) 
    — Des êtres humains  
    — Une espèce de basset  
    — Un pain (baguette) 
    — Une salade (frisée ?)  débordant partiellement d'un cabas 
      
    Trajectoires:
    Le  96  va à la gare Montparnasse  
    Le 84  va à la porte de Champerret  
    Le 70 va Place du Dr Hayem  Maison de  
    l'O.R.T.F.  
    Le 86  va à Saint-Germain-desPrés 
    Exigez le Roquefort Société  le vrai dans son ovale vert 

     
    Aucune eau ne jaillit de la  fontaine.  Des pigeons  se sont posés sur le rebord d'une de ses vasques. 
    Sur le terre-plein, il y a  des bancs, des bancs doubles avec un dosseret unique.   Je peux, de ma place, en compter jusqu'à six. Quatre sont vides. Trois clochards aux gestes classiques (boire du rouge  à la bouteille) sur le sixième.

    Le 63  va à la Porte de la Muette
    Le 86  va à Saint-Germain-des-Prés 
    Nettoyer c'est bien ne pas salir c'est mieux 
    Un car allemand 
    Une fourgonnette Brinks 
    Le  87  va au Champ-de-Mars 
    Le 84  va à la porte de Champerret  
      
    Couleurs :
    rouge  (  Fiat,  robe, St-Raphaël,  sens uniques  
    sac bleu  
    chaussures  vertes  
    imperméable vert  
    taxi bleu  
    deux-chevaux bleue
    Le 70  va à la Place du Dr Hayem  ,  Maison de l'O.R.T.F.  
      
    méhari verte 

    Le 86  vaà  Saint-Germain-desPrés  : Yoghourts et desserts
    Exigez le Roquefort Société  le vrai dans son ovale  vert  
      
    La plupart des gens ont au moins une main occupée : ils tiennent un sac, une petite valise, un cabas, une canne, une laisse au bout de laquelle il y a un chien  , la main d'un enfant.

    Un camion livre de la bière en tonneaux de métal ( Kanterbraü  , la bière de Maître Kanter)
    Le 86  va à Saint-Germain-desPrés 
    Le 63  va à la Porte de la Muette 
    Un car « Cityrama  » à deux étages 
    Un camion bleu  de marque mercédès 
    Un camion brun Printemps Brummell 
    Le 84  va à la porte de Champerret 
    Le 87  va au Champ-de-Mars 
    Le 70  va Place du Dr Hayem  Maison de l'O.R.T.F. 
    Le  96  va à la G are Montparnasse 
    Darty Réal 
    Le  63  va à la Porte de la Muette 
    Casimir maître traiteur.  Transports Charpentier. 
    Berth France S.A.R.L. 
    Le Goff tirage à bière 
    Le 96  va à la G are Montparnasse 
    Auto-école 
    venant de la rue du Vieux-Colombier  , un 84  tourne dans la rue Bonaparte  (en direction du Luxembourg  )

    Walon déménagements
    Fernand Carrascossa déménagements 
    Pommes de terre en gros 
      
    D'un car de touristes une Japonaise  semble me photographier. 
    Un vieil homme avec sa demi-baguette, une dame avec un paquet de gâteaux en forme de petite pyramide 

    Le 86  va à Saint-Mandé  (il ne tourne pas dans la rue Bonaparte  , mais il prend la rue du Vieux-Colombier  )
    Le  63  va à la Porte de la Muette 
    Le 87  va au Champ-de-Mars 
    Le 70  va Place du Dr Hayem  Maison de l'O.R.T.F.  
      
    Venant de la rue du Vieux-Colombier  , un 84  tourne dans la rue Bonaparte  (en direction du Luxembourg  )

    Un car, vide.
    D'autres Japonais dans un autre car 
    Le  86  va à Saint-Germain-desPrés 
    Braun reproductions d'art 
    Accalmie (lassitude ?) 
    Pause.'
     
  • 'Approches de quoi?' in 'L'infra-ordinaire'. Georges Perec, 1989.

    'What speaks to us, seemingly, is always the big event, the untoward, the extra-ordinary: the front-page splash, the banner headlines. Railway trains only begin to exist when they are derailed, and the more passengers that are killed, the more the trains exist. Aeroplanes achieve existence only when they are hijacked. The one and only destiny of motor-cars is to drive into plane trees. Fifty-two weekends a year, fifty-two casualty lists: so many dead and all the better for the news media if the figures keep going up! Behind the event there is a scandal, a fissure, a danger, as if life reveals itself only by way of the spectacular, as if what speaks, what is significant, is always abnormal: natural cataclysms or social upheavals, social unrest, political scandals.

    In our haste to measure the historic, significant and revelatory, let’s not leave aside the essential: the truly intolerable, the truly inadmissible. What is scandalous isn’t the pit explosion, it’s working in coalmines. ‘Social problems’ aren’t ‘a matter of concern’ when there’s a strike, they are intolerable twenty-four hours out of twenty-four, three hundred and sixty-five days a year.

    Tidal waves, volcanic eruptions, tower blocks that collapse, forest fires, tunnels that cave in, the Drugstore de Champs-Elysées burns down. Awful! Terrible! Monstrous! Scandalous! But where’s the scandal? The true scandal? Has the newspaper told us everything except: not to worry, as you can see life exists, with its ups and downs, things happen, as you can see.

    The daily newspapers talk of everything except the daily. The papers annoy me , they teach me nothing. What they recount doesn’t concern me, doesn’t ask me questions and doesn’t answer the questions I ask or would like to ask.

    What’s really going on, what we’re experiencing, the rest, all the rest, where is it? How should we take account of, question, describe what happens every day and recurs everyday: the banal, the quotidian, the obvious, the common, the ordinary, the infra-ordinary, the background noise, the habitual?

    To question the habitual. But that’s just it, we’re habituated to it. We don’t question it, it doesn’t question us, it doesn’t seem to pose a problem, we live it without thinking, as if it carried within it neither question nor answers, as if it weren’t the bearer of any information. This is not longer even conditioning, it’s anaesthesia. We sleep through our lives in a dreamless sleep. But where is our life? Where is our body? Where is our space?

    How are we to speak of these ‘common things’, how to track them down rather, how to flush them out, wrest them from the dross in which they remain mired, how to give them a meaning, a tongue, to let them, finally, speak of what is, of what we are.

    What’s needed perhaps is finally to found our own anthropology, one that will speak about us, will look in ourselves for what for so long we’ve been pillaging from others. Not the exotic anymore, but the endotic.

    To question what seems so much a matter of course that we’ve forgotten its origins. To rediscover something of the astonishment that Jules Verne or his readers may have felt faced with an apparatus capable of reproducing and transporting sounds. For the astonishment existed, along with thousands of others, and it’s they which have moulded us.

    What we need to question is bricks, concrete, glass, our table manners, our utensils, our tools, the way we spend our time, our rhythms. To question that which seems to have ceased forever to astonish us. We live, true, we breathe, true; we walk, we open doors, we go down staircases, we sit at a table in order to eat, we lie down on a bed in order to sleep. How? Why? Where? When? Why?

    Describe your street. Describe another street. Compare.

    Make an inventory of you pockets, of your bag. Ask yourself about the provenance, the use, what will become of each of the objects you take out.

    Question your tea spoons.

    What is there under your wallpaper?

    How many movements does it take to dial a phone number?

    Why don’t you find cigarettes in grocery stores? Why not?

    It matters little to me that these questions should be fragmentary, barely indicative of a method, at most of a project. It matters a lot to me that they should seem trivial and futile: that’s exactly what makes them just as essential, if not more so, as all the other questions by which we’ve tried in vain to lay hold on our truth.

     
  • The secret knowledge of water. Craig Childs.
  • The songlines. Bruce Chatwin. Picador.