Collective Unit

Paris (FR) – Runner-up


Team Representative: Julia Tournaire (FR) – architect; Associates: Marie-Charlotte Dalin (FR) – architect  

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J. Tournaire and M.-C. Dalin



1. How did you form the team for the competition?

Enriched by our respective experiences we have been working for a few years on the formulation of a shared vision on the city and architecture. We graduated three years ago and our final project was a first attempt to turn our discourse into a project on the city. Since then, we have been aiming at developing further our common work. Europan appeared as a good opportunity to confront our thoughts to new issues about the city. 


2. How do you define the main issue of your project, insisting on how you answered on this session main topic: adaptability and urban rhythms?

The adaptable city is above all the city that is able to root the contemporary practices of its inhabitants into the metropolis development and then to embody the shared desires. In Paris –as well as in other major metropolis– half of the households consists of one person and single persons or people in business trip abound. These neo-nomadics, pluri-topical individuals create very dynamic inhabiting practices as they fulfill themselves in several distinct places. According to us, here is the main principle of the contemporary urban adaptability. The adaptable city responds to the varied interrelationships. This could be achieved through a direct and non-hierarchical relationship establishment between the single individual itself and the whole urban territory. We propose ‘Collective unit’ as a new type of infrastructure for the city of Paris. A collective facility that puts together individual units, directly connected to the territory and totally independent from each other, thus free to choose their momentary collaborations amongst themselves as well as with the rest of the metropolis.


3. How did this issue and the questions raised by the site mutation meet?

The land strip between boulevard des Maréchaux and the ring plays a significant role in the Paris urban structure and the city organisation. Apart from its important supply of infrastructural facilities –recently completed by the tramway– it hosts the major part of the Parisian collective programs. Collective housing as well as many big facilities occupy this piece of territory. For us this strip is the collective and infrastructural strip of Paris as it is able to host daily cohabiting practices and at the same time to connect different conditions of the historic city and even of the Great Paris. We consider this Parisian ‘collective strip’ as the main resource for the adaptability of the Parisian metropolis and assume that it provides the perfect condition for the public authorities to establish a new infrastructural facility. 


4. Have you already treated this issue previously and could you present some reference projects that inspired yours?

It was the first time we had been considering such an issue and urban condition. It was crucial for us to first formulate our own definition of the proposed theme and raise the important issues before suggesting any answer. Some referential thoughts helped the construction of our discourse, in particular M. Lussault’s book L’Avénement du monde, F. Migayrou’s essay De la ville à la métropole, de l’inscription à l’interrelation published for the research Habiter le Grand Paris undertaken by DPA office, and Villa Gillet’s lecture Individus et société : comment trouver sa place dans la ville d’aujourd’hui
As far as our answer on the issue of the adaptable city are concerned, some projects were of a major influence. From an urban point of view, we found some interest in the reinterpretation that Koolhaas, with The City of the Captive Globe, or Leonidov, with his project in Magnitogorsk (RU), did of the city grid as a structuring yet flexible urban form. These portraitures of the metropolis have some similarity with the particular urban condition in Porte des Poissonniers and its successive strips, independent ‘capsules’ and free forms. We were also highly inspired by Absalon research on the cell as a compact residential unit reduced to the absolute essentials: unlike the classical modernist architects he tried to give each cell a highly individual and unique design and to develop particularization instead of standardization. Finally, Thomas Ruff’s Portraits helped us defining the subject of the adaptable city, the individual in its multitude and uniqueness, the contemporary citizen.  


5. Today – within the era of an economic crisis and sustanibility – the urban-architectural project should reconsider its production method in time; how did you integrate this issue in your project?

We consider the punctuated revelation of the existing conditions as the appropriate answer to the contemporary issue of the adaptable city and sustainable development, rather than the phasing and development of a programmed intervention. We propose a form of urbanism of revelation that doesn’t try to import an automated urban form as a miraculous answer to highlighted problems, but that rather accepts, magnifies and makes viable the actual urban condition. The project aims to describe and intensify the existing reality with the statement of new paradigms and the formulation of a shared vision. From these result a series of independent and accumulative actions that don’t require the phasing nor the completeness of a traditional masterplan. 


6. Is it the first time you have been awarded a prize at Europan? How could this help you in your prefessional career?

Yes, it is the first time we are awarded. We consider Europan as a great opportunity to share our ideas with all the city actors and to face the reality of the politics city development.