Fosses (FR) – Runner-up


Team Representative: Morvan Rabin (FR) – urban planner; Associates: Alline Correa-Bouric (BR), Vincent Prié (FR) – architects urban planners
Contributors: Tangi Rabin (FR) – landscaper –

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M. Rabin and A. Correa Bouric



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

We have known each other since our last year of study at the Institut d’Urbanisme de Paris. The site of Fosses, for the issues it approaches –territories of dispersion, “sub-urbanism”, agriculture, heritage, public spaces, hydrology, etc.– suited the expression of the diversity of our respective competences and centres of interests (geography, territorial development, urban composition, architecture, landscape, environment, agronomy, botany, etc.)


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?

We tried to understand the measure at which the study of big territorial structures, at a large scale and on long temporalities, can help define the fundamental principles of the project at the site scale. By doing so we inscribed our approach in the concept of “longue durée” (long term) created by the historian Fernand Braudel, who distinguishes three types of temporalities: the long term of the geographic structures, the medium term of socioeconomic conjunctures, and the punctuality of events of political order.
Developing this logic of differentiation of rhythms to the urban project, we identify –through the territorial analysis– a structure (geographic, urban and of the landscape) and an organisation logics (of space, actors and process) anchored and shared enough so that they might adapt to the socioeconomic and political conjunctures of urbanism.

Program scheme, or the map of possibilities
Reinforced village heart

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

The whole stake is to find shortcuts between the large territorial scale and the long term, and on the other hand the site scale and the subtle interventions to take.
Let’s take an example: the pottery history of the village of Fosses and the Ysieux valley, which started more than 1,400 years go. This theme is at the heart of the project because one of the main components of the program is the installation of the centre for the interpretation of the pottery history at the heart of the village. At the territorial scale, it leads us to the repositioning of the village within the historic valley of the Ysieux River, which means looking as much to the West (downstream, in the direction of other potters’ villages) as to the East (upstream, at the town centre of Fosses). At the project site scale, it implies to consider that the connection now disappeared between the village and the river is a fundamental principle of the future interventions, because the clay that served to produce the potteries was extracted from the pits along the river.
The question of adaptability is treated according to three complementary themes (the village and its historical tissue; the agriculture between the plateau and the bottom of the valley; the surrounding detached housing tissue) approached at the regional scale and developed at the site scale. From the architectural and urban point of view, each housing typology was defined according to its landscape context (“green-houses” nearby the farming, “reinterpreted farms” at the heart of the village, etc.) and each typology of public space was the object of a subtle reflection to adapt and be inscribed into a very sensible landscape.

Village map in 1653
Urban-agricultural edge and villages' silhouettes

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

This issue underlies many urban projects lead to this day, so we have already dealt with this question, yet without treating it in such an immediate and direct way. Many approaches figure out as references to our project.
The approach of the Secchi & Vigano studio seems essential to us for its constant concern of shortening between the scales of reflection and (therefore) between the temporalities of the project. They particularly demonstrated this concern through the projects developed in Antwerp (strategic planning scheme at the city scale and the concomitant realisations of the Spoor Nord park and the place of the theatre) and in Courtrai (city master plan followed by the realisation of the Grand-Place and a cemetery).
The considerations of the “school of Geneva” around André Corboz, Alain Léveillé and Georges Descombes constitute another major reference over the themes of the “city-territory”, urban heritage and urban peripheries. Lead by Georges Descombes, the progressive and participative realisation (between 1979 and 1989) of the Lancy park along a little water stream in the South-West of Geneva is a beautiful manifest for the “school”.
Other projects nurture our approach on various subjects: the participative adaptation of housings with a redefinition of the utility of the construction period (Stephenson block in Tourcoing, by the Construire agency); the adaptation and extension a historic village tissue to welcome new programs (Maison des arts at Vauhallan, by Alexandre Chemetoff); the adaptability of agricultural structures to answer to contemporary issues (permaculture farm at Bec Hellouin); the relation to matter, time and the vernacular (Les Sablettes at La Seyne-sur-Mer, by Fernand Pouillon), etc.


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

Our three thematic approaches (“adapting agriculture”, “adapting the village” and “adapting the housing”) have each one their own mode of fabrication in time: they correspond to variable configurations of spaces, of systems of actors, of realisation and of temporalities.
The project approach through a territorial analysis at a large scale is also an answer to this project-process question. It aims at going beyond the ambiguous statute of the competition (working “in a jar” without the real possibility of a dialogue with the inhabitants and the users’ expertise) that belongs to traditional and linear procedures of fabrication of projects: competition / selection / adjustments / realisation. 
We have chosen to favour the identification of the foundations and structure of the project. The possibilities brought into evidence may on one hand be amended and completed by the ulterior propositions, and on the other hand be triggered at different moments (even not be triggered at all) without loss to the coherence of the whole.
Moreover the project questions the “how-to-do” as much as the “what-to-do”. The feasibility of the propositions is a central element of our project (which does not hinder a real radicalism), as well as the study of the means of realisation: citizen participation at all the stages, construction sites considered as an occasion for social life and for the comprehension of the project, integration of production modes more anchored at the territory (materials, know-hows, enterprises), means of insertion of new statutes of housing that go beyond the split owner / tenant, exploration of a new economy of the urban interventions, prefiguration of certain realisations of public spaces through temporary installations, etc.


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

It is the first time we have been awarded at Europan. This recognition comforts the pertinence of an approach of the urban project that is strongly anchored in the territory – just like, at a totally different scale, the awarding of the Grand Prix of Urban Planning to Paola Vigano. It is a catalyst of our collective projects and a facilitator element to our respective professional careers.