Accattone #2 (preview)

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cover Aurélien Froment, Tombeau idéal de Ferdinand Cheval 01-07, 2013. Arvid Wretman, graffitisex, 2015.



Accattone #2 gathers words and documents from nine guest contributors from Germany, United Kingdom, France, Sweden and Belgium. It draws on several themes from the first issue — material shifts, models and model-like buildings, the role of images in the design process — to address specific methods and approaches in contemporary architecture which challenge established codes: bricolage, minor architecture, personal narratives and collections. In the montage, each contribution resonates with the others, through analogies and faux amis, experimentations on editorial devices and shared positions towards reality, history and representation.






The richness and depth of the word that gives name to the office can either be translated as Architecture or as Building Art, carrying very distinct ideological meaning, in a debate as old as the birth of the modern architect.1 Through Gottfried Semper, someone who lies at the core of the place where I am developing my PhD research, the ETH Zürich, I came across an interesting approach to this tension. Die Vier Elemente der Baukunst (1851), written after a couple of years of exile around Europe and just before coming to set the tone in Zürich,2 displays the argument very clearly. It attempts to systematise the logic of human settlement and interaction since its inception, following a fascinating trend with the idea of Origin,3 with the main argument developing a reasoning on how primordial needs and activities acquire and carry architectural meaning, despite changing formal solutions. The interesting twist, in contrast to previous arguments, is that the primordial acts of architecture are not buildings, as in the primitive hut of Laugier, but the key components of it — hearth (fire), the original architectural act, surrounded by the earthwork mound, the woven enclosure, and the wooden roof — that in turn give birth to the original dwelling.4 Semper decomposed Architecture as a whole into its four core Building Arts, as each of the elements is connected to a specific knowledge — ceramics (hearth), stonework (mound), weaving (enclosure), and carpentry (roof). In doing so, one could suggest he abandons the modern-era notion of architect-as-designer and returns to a pre-modern notion of architect-as-builder. This understanding of Semper of how architecture came to be what it is and how an architect should perform comes to full development in the 20th-century German vanguards understanding of the architectural problem, and is elevated to the only logical path to properly address the Zeitgeist: “The art technical journals that were formerly focal points for artistic life have, due to their purely aesthetic viewpoints, failed to take note of the development of the modern building art [Baukunst] away from the aesthetic to the organic, from the formal to the constructive. (…) The character of our time must be conveyed by our building. We want to shape the form of our buildings out of the nature of the task, but with the means of our time.”5 Mies van der Rohe, 1923


1 Cf. Alberti, Palladio, Semper, Wagner, Mies, … and still going strong, as the writings of Mario Carpo and many others display. 2 Gottfried Semper was the first director of the School and designed the building of the Central Campus, where the School of Architecture was housed between 1855 and 1976. 3 Abbé Laugier’s Essai sur l’Architecture (1753) and his primitive hut frontispiece designed for the cover of the second edition are the best known example. One could argue that in revolutionary times epistemology rules, as we often search for the most basic building blocks of humanity to be able to conceive a fresh start from our interpretation of the beginning. 4 For a thorough analysis of Semper’s thinking cf. Mari Hvattum, Gottfried Semper and the Problem of Historicism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004) or Wolfgang Herrman, Gottfried Semper, in Search of Architecture (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1984). Kenneth Frampton analysed the problems raised by his understanding of Baukunst and its effects in contemporary architecture culture in his Studies in Tectonic Culture: The Poetics of Construction in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Architecture (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1996). 5 Mies van der Rohe, “Office Building,” manuscript (August 1923). Published in Fritz Neumeyer, The Artless Word: Mies van der Rohe on the Building Art (trans. Mark Jarzombek. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991), p. 241. The recurrent failure of the critic to keep up with the Zeitgeist, a successful opening argument of any heroic modern architect’s manifesto, is in this iteration referring to the clear separation that Neoclassicism introduced between formal appearance and material substance (or logic), that the Modern Movement stated as a serious problem. This task, often treated as moral dogma in theory, was frequently subverted in practice due to (among other problems) the technical challenges of building. The young zealot just quoted was particularly refined in devious ways of lying while maintaining the appearance of truth.











“You must be very careful with the word bricolage ”. Belgian artist Patrick Van Caeckenbergh is sitting at the table next to the large glass facade of the house that René Heyvaert designed for his brother Gilbert in 1958. It is late Friday afternoon and the table is covered with appetizers and drinks. People are smoking. A press conference has just not taken place. It was meant to present a residency programme at the house, during summer and autumn 2015, at the initiative of René Heyvaert’s niece, Lieve, who lived there in her youth. The press conference is our way in to the visit. Without any official speech nor press release — only a flyer with a picture of the house and a list of the future residents — we learn about the project by chatting with the few people who are present. Sam Steverlynck, an art critic who has helped Lieve Heyvaert organise the project, explains that it consists in making the house available to each participant for one month, with zero budget. “If there is any money, there is never enough.” Walking around, from conversation to conversation, we see that the house is still inhabited by Gilbert Heyvaert and his family, but they have moved downstairs, to the ground floor. A few years ago, the simple basement used mainly for storage became a new housing unit, more comfortable and accessible for the ageing family. For a few years Lieve Heyvaert has been taking care of the upper floor, where she and her family used to live. Keen on her uncle’s artistic inclinations, she wants to keep the house alive, hence the gathering of artists and architects. The state of the house is equally balanced between a suspended desertion and a continual process of change. The plasterboard covering the ceilings has been taken out and new plastic cable channels go through the walls of the house, the wiring not being finished yet. Small pieces of wood punctuate the ceiling, drawing a pattern not unfamiliar to the artwork of René Heyvaert. At first one may think it is decoration, but it’s only the supporting structure of the former false ceiling. Awkward features like this one might explain why architect Jan De Vylder has been fascinated with the house since he visited it as a student. He is most responsible for the renewed interest by Belgian architects in Heyvaert’s work, as this filiation is cited in several texts and interviews. In particular, we discovered it in Paul Vermeulen’s text “The Untamed Mind”, a text on wild thinking and bricolage in the


architecture of De Vylder Vinck Taillieu: “The limit of anti-hierarchical creation, the vanishing point of drawing-as-you-build, is the total dissolution of the space, its fragmentation into autonomous building components that occupy a random place in the infinite accumulation of objects. A shelf, a wall, a work of art, the flames in the hearth, two copper pipes, piles of books, a cluster of lamps, a chair, a staircase, another chair: everything is equal.” 1 Many questions had arisen before arriving and many more came to mind upon discovering the residency project. What is the legacy of this house on contemporary Belgian architecture? How is it used today? Is the residency project turning the house into a fetish, a domestic monument of Belgian modernism and bricolage? A place meant for living transformed into an object of contemplation? Such issues are at stake while we discover the 90 square metres of the upper floor, its new equipment mixed with the older one, the calm relationship with the ploughed fields of the surroundings. It is still a house before being architecture. It has been lived in day after day for fifty years by a family of six children, built with the cheapest possible means, repaired and adapted ever since. The attempt to try and separate what is new from what might be original seems unnatural and out of place. There is no point in considering it a ‘piece of work’, imagining its pristine state. Quite the contrary: authenticity is at stake inasmuch as the house has been lived in and transformed, as flexibility is one of the concepts at the basis of the design. Comparing the house with previous photographs — Heyvaert in 1958, Marc Dubois in 1990, Jan Mast in 2005, UP in 2007 — you notice that an outdoor terrace occupied the first two bays of the basement. The entire basement is now a new dwelling. While we may erase chunks of reality in the search for Heyvaert’s architecture, the expected encounter with a domestic genius, the house is just there, full of life’s objects and traces, clinking cutlery, warmed up by the voices of its inhabitants. Nothing but a house. A genuine building, never intended for mediatisation, whose sole horizon is to shelter Gilbert Heyvaert and his family, providing maximum surface for a minimum budget. If the house is not an object of contemplation, the press conference scheduled at 5 p.m. is a non-event. No public shows up, no chairs have been aligned, no

1 Paul Vermeulen, “The Untamed Mind”, in architecten de vylder vinck taillieu, 1 boek 2, Ghent: MER / de Singel, 2011, pp. 8-41. Heyvaert’s artistic and architectural work is the object of a comprehensive catalogue edited by Bart de Baere and Lieve Laporte: René Heyvaert. Ghent: Ludion, 2006.

2 Patrick Van Caeckenbergh recalls similar events in an interview by Hans Theys, “A Noble Clearing Out”, Metropolis M no. 1, February 2012. 3 “Digital Images Code Countdown. Interview with Benoît Rosemont, Illusionist”, Back Cover no. 2, Spring-Summer 2009.

speech made. We just share the afternoon with the people who have been there since our arrival: an art critic, a few artists, an architect, basically the future ‘residents’ of the house in the months to come. Marc Dubois’s text quotes a critic considering Heyvaert’s artwork as “noncommittal”; this is basically the general mindset of the people around on that day. At that moment, though, we acknowledge that the house has an aura. Not exactly the aura of its author, who deceased quite young in 1984, but the aura of the experimental nature of the project, a primitive hut built with the cheap industrial materials available at that time. There is a something of these aspects, of course. But mostly it is the intimate aura of familyhood emanating from modest housing, with very little privacy between the bedrooms, toilet shower and the kitchen, built in the summertime by Heyvaert’s brother with the help of a few architecture students. Storytelling. “You must be very careful with the word bricolage”. Patrick Van Caeckenbergh has just warned. “It has nothing to do with the handyman and DIY work. It means, according to Lévi-Strauss’s The Savage Mind, that the metaphorical world is very close.” We share anecdotes. His first runs more or less like this: “My father was a bricoleur. When we walked down the street, he never looked up, he was always looking down at the ground. Whenever he found a spoiled nail, he put it in his pocket. Back home, he used to straighten it until it looked new, put a drop of oil to keep it from rust, then placed it in a numbered butter box, literally filed on his shelves. He did the same with wooden boards”. The family wasn’t rich, but the purpose was not to resell it, nor to make any specific use of these found materials. “One day, it was around 198283, we finally got a telephone at home. My father didn’t really know what to do with it, and the object stayed on the floor for many weeks, until my mother addressed him, please make a shelf for the telephone, it cannot stay on the floor forever. My father looked dubious and remained seated on a chair, staring at the corner of the room. He remained silent for 20, 40 minutes. Then he stood up, went to the place where he kept his boards, and picked one, the only one that would fit the wall perfectly. There the telephone would stand. Bricolage is all about an inventory and a gesture. You have to be able to reach everything you need in five minutes, and have a perfect knowledge of the specificity of every part of it.” That

is the bricoleur’s physical and metaphorical world. A matter of survival, like knowing what mushroom or plant is edible and not poisonous, when they all look almost the same. “Your family teaches you that. Like in my father’s example, the bricoleur is inert. He is not a handyman. It is always someone else who triggers the bricoleur to do something.” The bricoleur is someone very intimate with objects and memories. 2 Memory and specificity. Preparing this issue of Accattone we read an interview by Aurélien Froment with an illusionist who can memorise very quickly a series of words and numbers given by the public. 3 In the interview he explains his mnemonic method is based on a very personal ‘recall table’, where each number is linked to a precise image: a roof, a net, a tower, a cat, a bed, etc. These immutable images serve as ‘hooks’ to which he appends the words given by the public: numerals are replaced by images, easier to recall and to associate with one another. For instance, if the sixth item given by the public is ‘television’, the mnemonics technician links it with his cat, which is the image associated with the sixth element of his recall table. In his mind, he quickly creates a story associating his cat and a television, before letting the public give the following word to recall. For instance: his cat is in front of the television and tries to catch a virtual bird (or, the television implodes and kills the cat). To recall the given word at the end of the exercise, he will think of what his cat is doing: the word ‘television’ reappears. Again, it is the specificity of memory, the kinship with the images of his collection and the fertile imagination in inventing new situations which reveal the bricoleur. His cat, his tower, his roof, all the items of his recall table have to be defined precisely, and the short narrative he creates in a few seconds is very vivid, so that recollection is easier. Collecting, storytelling, and gesture. Rationalisation through imagination. Patrick Van Caeckenbergh replies with a third anecdote — “as bricolage cannot be theorised, only approached with stories”. He relates how during some studies in neurology in Cologne he learnt about a certain Solomon Shereshevsky, an autist, “affected by an incredible memory. For instance, touching of the menu at the restaurant could make him relive every taste and conversation he had ever experienced in his life.” During a synaesthetic experience the entire environment, real or imaginary, becomes immediately present and lived without any of


the filters that usually attenuate our senses. If facing a lawn, the green blades of grass to which we are so accustomed to could become an incredible revelation. “Such experiences can be very powerful and painful. To counter his fears, Shereshevsky created many short stories to prevent pain, written for himself in small booklets he kept in his library. Recalling a particular story would keep a particular fear or pain at a distance. Apparently, his mental activity was so strong that he could undergo the dental surgery without anaesthesia, as he could concentrate on a story, transforming the drill and his tooth into an alternate narrative of events.” Rationalisation through imagination: a truly ‘savage mind’, the science of the bricoleur.4 The collection of memories and knowledge seems to be a matter of self-preservation. We learn by heart what will protect us from pain. Scarcity and survival as basic motives of the bricoleur’s work, as shown by the Heyvaert house. Other projects featured in this issue of Accattone do not proceed from the same conditions. We may have a longing for such intimacy and affect, but we know that is it probably no longer the case. Today’s bricoleur has become intellectualised, sophisticated. Nonetheless, the “science of the concrete” still influences architecture as it questions the means available to the architect, refusing the grandeur of major architecture, its emphasis on design. Narratives and gestures. The bricoleur’s articulation of images, narratives and gestures is indeed the self-chosen attitude used by Tom Emerson in his work with 6a architects and with his students at ETH Zurich. In the book Never Modern, Irenée Scalbert draws on Lévi-Strauss’s bricoleur to show how the renovation of Raven Row, a listed building transformed into an art gallery in Spitalfields, London, proceeds from utterly different attitudes than those which we may call Modern. The project does not consist in an overarching concept that is then applied to in every single detail of the building; it is made of distinctive parts of different scales, responsive to separate necessities and opportunities, in a rather non-hierarchical relationship with one another. In his accounts of Raven Row, everything is equal, from a door knob to a massive excavation under an existing office building. Narratives are based on images, found materials, traces of history and of usage; materials keep the imprint of the gestures that created them. “Set up in 2010, the studio [at ETH] focuses on re-use and


bricolage in architecture & the narrative of history. It is about the re-use of materials, the re-use of buildings and most importantly the re-use of knowledge. Using improvisation and opportunism, we seek new architectural possibilities in the world that surrounds us, picking up clues in the long arcs of architectural history and in the traces of quotidian human affairs. We use or re-use history in an eclectic way, like the bricoleur uses what is at hand. It is a landscape of potential where traces can be matched to a future.” 5 When photographing the Ideal Palace of Facteur Cheval — a total work of bricolage, already acknowledged by Claude Lévi-Strauss in The Savage Mind — Aurélien Froment had probably something similar in mind: a selection and a gesture. First, he isolated fragments of another artist, the postman and sculptor Facteur Cheval, to give an objective but personal account of his work. The black drape he put behind the objects of his contemplation separates them from the overwhelming context of their position within the palace: a selection to reveal specificity where otherwise everything is equal, that is, everything is equally sculpted. Architectural elements and the figures that decorate them merge together, to the extent that Froment wonders “what came first: the staircase on which the lion’s head is modelled, or the lion’s head, which required the construction of a staircase?” Relations of power can easily be inverted in bricolage; here a whole miniaturised palace as pedestal of innumerable sculptures. In the interview published in the journal of his own exhibition, the artist also performs a reversal of positions: he is the interviewer, while the main role is given to Pierre Constant, the restorer who worked on those stones for more than forty years. He is the storyteller, the one who ‘knows’ and who gives meaning to Froment’s work. A heap of broken images. Facteur Cheval “collected stones whose forms reminded him of animals or human beings. He never carved, never used a chisel.” Likewise, he collected images out of magazines and postcards that would inspire his work on the Ideal Palace. As is the case in his interview with the illusionist, Aurélien Froment seems to be intrigued by people with a fervid visual imagination, collectors, storytellers, bricoleurs. An important set of artwork, still ongoing and taking different forms, deals with Arcosanti, Paolo Soleri’s experimental community in Arizona. The two photographs reproduced in this issue are a very small

4 Shereshevsky’s famous case was studied by Alexander Luria, The Mind of a Mnemonist. A Little Book About A Vast Memory. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968. 5 Studio Tom Emerson, 96 Hands, Bricolage London, Measure, Hidden London, Jaú, Trouvaille Sihlquai, Repair, Limmatquai Theatre, Hidden Zurich, 6 Turns. Zurich, ETH, 2011, p. 9.

6 Garence Chabert and Aurélien Mole, “Artistes iconographes”, Art 21 no. 25, Winter 2009/2010, pp. 18-27. Our translation. 7 Both were published by Roma Publications, Amsterdam.

part of it. In The Apse, the Bell and the Antelope (video, 2005), a fixed camera frames the words and gestures of Roger Tomalty, one of the centre’s managers, as he explains the architectural and social project of Arcosanti. Behind him, the viewer perceives some details of the background — at times Soleri’s architecture, at times the desert, or a cross section of one of the buildings — as the tension between what is told and what isn’t shown intensifies. Aurélien Froment’s art lies in the definition of the narrator’s position: he lets others speak but he is the one who defines the frame and mode of the narration. Olivier Franceschi, curator of his exhibition in Paris, notes that the artist easily appropriates various roles depending on the project: the historian, the scientist, the pedagogue, the visionary. A collector, not of stones, but of stories and images. Another article on Froment’s work uses the term Astronomist iconographer to indicate such art practices based on the recollection, selection and arrangement of images in “loose associations”. “An iconology of intervals. In astronomy, a constellation is a group of stars assembled by the figure they draw in the sky. These stars are not related by any significant gravitational force, nor any common origins; in a sense, it is an arbitrary and subjective ensemble with no astrophysical value. However, the drawing that brings them together allows them to be identified and to detach themselves from the infinity of stars in the universe. … Unlike the archive, where the filing system erases the image’s specificities, the constellation, considered as an articulated set, amplifies the polysemy of each part.”6 Koenraad Dedobbeleer is such an ‘astronomist iconographer’, a postcard and book collector, a sculptor. He is most expert in analogical thinking through images, a skill he employs in several publications. His book Œuvre sculpté, travaux pour amateurs (2012) and the subsequent Compensating Transient Pleasurable Excitations (2014)7 consist in a series of images, reproduced from books, collected postcards, photographs by the author, and his own sculptures. The reader is unable to explain their sequence, which is certainly meaningful, but loose. The use of text is very accurate. For example, in Œuvre sculpté… only three textual devices develop in words what the image leaves open to interpretation. The first, in the frontispiece, is this inscription:

THE ARGUMENT How meandering around objects gets to be the subject of a short story. This narrative gets divided into 71 chapters, whose content is more often than not contradicting one another in order to create an assumption of what the constitution of things might be. In place of the usual introductory note to a book, the second device is the reproduction of a four-page folder published by a New York art gallery in 1952, with a text by Tristan Tzara on Kurt Schwitters and his collages, translated by Marcel Duchamp. The text is itself a collected document. It begins the series of 71 documents, while its fourth page, the back cover, is displaced at the very end of the sequence, enclosing the collection. The third textual element are the tiles of the nine sculptures featured in the book, The Gradual Formation of a Landscape, Contemporary Is the Man, not Style, Guilt Is in the System, Simply a Logical Consequence, The Subject of Matter (for WS), An Archaic Word for a Gift, Painstakingly Realistic, The Harder They Fall, the Harder They Crash ’Em and Thought Apart From Concrete Realities. The semantic field they evoke, distant from the object they are related to, enables them to function dialectically, as an image against the other, so that all parts of the book work on the same level, be it artwork, references, titles, introduction. A montage of associations and dissociations creating a ‘constellation’, a visual narrative based on distant ‘facts’. For his contribution on this issue a similar protocol has been used. Reacting to the first issue of Accattone and to the other contents of this issue, he proposed to compose an essay out of his collection of museum postcards. The sequence of twenty ghostly pictures is — in his words — “a rather simple thing, but at the same time telling about history, art history, architecture and architecture history. A mix through the eyes of an amateur. Images without words, only the captions of the cards.” The title almost gives his selection the tone of a scientific demonstration: Obvious Truths Within Cultures Are Often the Things that Are Not Said nor Directly Acknowledged. Persistent figures and architectural memories travel from postcard to postcard, just as the white wall of Baukunst’s studio is scattered with black and white prints of architectural histories: a detective’s pinboard of affinities


with history which occur in several projects, as declinations of a same idea. Analogical, ‘wild’ thinking through images — a selection and an arrangement of an inventory that can be reached within 5 minutes — producing artistic evidence, high and low, obviously. References enshrine the original, they explain, they expand, they are questioned in return, in a dense agglomeration which cannot simply be taken as mere inspiration. Minor architecture. Koenraad Dedobbeleer’s title could also work with Sébastien Martinez Barat and Benjamin Lafore’s contribution to Accattone #3, in which they collect 137 images and quotations inherent to their own conceptual and built work. 8 Like a collection of postcards, these “formal notes” are evenly mounted on 8 plates, each containing a grid of 18 images of the same size and status. Sketch-Up renderings, scanned drawings, professional photographs or mobile phone shots, of their own work or somebody else’s work, and quotations, all participate to suggest unstable lines of thought. Whether interpreted as ironic or perfectly serious, genuine or sophisticated (probably a mix of both), honest and generous, their contribution has the virtue of showing three things that may have a broader significance with regard to how architecture is made today: first, they show that the architect’s work is affected by a relentless return of persistent ideas and obsessions; second, that there is no morality in architectural representation, only taste; third, that architecture’s room for manoeuvre seems to be limited to the smallness of the interior, of built-in furniture design, or minor interventions for cultivated clients, often initiated by the architects themselves. Martinez Barat and Lafore embrace the everyday without preconceived thoughts, but with the gaze sharpened by meaningful fragments of their experience, forms to be analysed, conceptualised and re-used in future projects as architectural operators. Wedges, mouldings and skirting boards, inalienable furniture, stairs and fireplaces, sharp corners, partitioning walls. “Behind the permanence of façades, an internal metabolism generates a life of forms that is correlated to the diversity of forms of life.” 9 This tension between the shell and the interior of a building is striking in the Centre Jeanne-Hachette in Ivry-sur-Seine, the building where they have temporarily established their office and accommodation. Highly recognisable for its sharp corners in cast concrete merging in the overall formless


volume of a mound, it was designed in 19701975 by Jean Renaudie, who worked on-site, with the challenge of making each dwelling different from the others. Their apartment, formerly an office, has been stripped bare by the owner and converted; having to spend some time abroad he is lending the main part to the two architects, moving all of his stuff to a large studio space at the end of the apartment. When we visited them in October 2014 they had just moved in. Basically, the main space was empty, except for a couch, a thin, long table set towards the sharp corner of Renaudie’s architecture, and piles of books leaning against the wall.10 This emptiness probably enhanced the immediate perception of the project’s experimental character: a French grand ensemble whose engaging architecture counterbalances the maintenance problems of such large estates. One of the multiple coincidences that occurred during the preparation of this issue is that Koenraad Dedobbeleer and Kris Kimpe published issues of their magazine UP both on Renaudie’s building and on Heyvaert’s house.11 Irenée Scalbert, besides being a specialist of post-war British architecture and bricolage, wrote extensively on Renaudie’s projects.12 “All rooms are entered from the main living area, inflections in the plan merely serving as clues as to what use might be designated, and inviting a great deal of inventiveness on the part of the tenants. [...] Although the total floor space of these unconventional plans corresponds to the established norms for social housing, they are none the less strikingly successful in creating a sense of spaciousness — in some cases the main living space (often used as a bedroom) cannot be taken in from a single vantage-point. According to a survey carried out in one of Renaudie’s buildings in Ivry soon after completion, its architecture was perceived by its tenants as being revolutionary. If for some the idiosyncratic nature of the development was a source of anxiety, for others it represented the confirmation of a newly found social status. In many cases large sums of money were spent in acquiring new furniture that could adapt to the irregular geometry of the spaces. Many of

8 Accattone #3 is a special issue consisting in a 96 x 64 cm poster foldable into an 8-page magazine, co-produced by Extra City and published as a contribution to The Corner Show, Extra City, Antwerp, 12 September – 6 December 2015, curated by Wouter Davidts in collaboration with Philip Metten and Mihnea Mircan. 9 Sébastien Martinez Barat, Bernard Dubois, Sarah Levy, Judith Wielander, Interior. Notes and Figures. Brussels: Architecture Unit of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation and A+, 2014, p. 8. 10 Two pictures of their Notes refer to Renaudie’s building. 11 Respectively UP no. 6/7, 2008, and no. 3, 2007. 12 Irénée Scalbert, “Ivry-sur-Seine Town Centre”, AA Files no. 23 (Summer 1992), pp. 44-48, from which the quotation is extracted, and A Right to Difference. The Architecture of Jean Renaudie. London: AA Publications, 2004.

13 This term is borrowed from the title of an exhibition by Trix and Robert Haussmann, in May 1981. See Gillo Dorfles, “‘Manierismo critico’. Arbeiten von Trix und Robert Haussmann”, Werk, Bauen + Wohnen vol. 68, no. 10 (September 1981), pp. 28-29.

14 Richard Wentworth / Eugène Atget. Faux Amis, London: The Photographer’s Gallery and Lisson Gallery, 2001. See in particular Geoff Dyer’s contribution “Les Mots et Les Choses”, p. 19. 15 “Faux Amis”, OASE no. 81 (2010), pp. 59-64. Typeface Not Comic Sans (beta), Harrisson, June 2015. A straighted version of the sans-serif casual script with a pedagogical, academic, scientific and popular vocation.

the tenants seem to have an almost proprietorial attitude towards the town centre — and perhaps it is this cosy atmosphere which has prompted some detractors of the development to observe that housing built for the workers seems to have been appropriated by their representatives and by the intelligentsia. [...] Thus at Ivry, as in other buildings by the same architects (at Givors, Saint Denis and Aubervilliers), a recurrent dream of the modern movement, a dream which began with Le Corbusier’s immeuble villas, where each dwelling, whatever its level, is allocated a garden, has at last been realized. And, even more remarkable, this was achieved at a mere ten per cent more than the cost of standard French social housing. Today’s condition in European cities for engaged architects is not that of building cities nor residential megastructures, only left to private corporations in pursuit of property speculation. Architects deal with what is inside existing buildings. Martinez Barat Lafore’s attention to the ‘forms of life’ proceeds from this condition. It is in the realm of minor architecture that built projects can take a critical perspective: domestic features containing the seeds of their own criticism. ‘Wild’ everyday bricolage, as found in their investigations on the interior, and architects’ savant bricolage share the ability to simultaneously fit their purpose and to amuse, questioning the discipline’s established codifications. It is a Parallel of Life and Art, like John Soane’s house and collection and Richard Wentworth’s surveys in relation to 6a’s architecture, De Vylder Vinck Taillieu’s inspiration from Gilbert Heyvaert’s house, or Dedobbeleer’s association of his own sculptures with high and low analogies, from Brancusi to the neighbour’s garden. Minor architecture does not necessarily have to be intended as small-scale interventions, nor as a renewed appropriation of the vernacular, but as the critical practice of interpreting and modifying what is at close range, to subvert the power relations embedded in built environment and in architecture culture. If this adjustment of architecture to the new conditions of scarcity already seems to hold a position in several architecture schools and ‘nomadic academies’,

it is impossible to foretell whether this will ever correspond to a similar movement towards the centre of the discipline in building terms, in a perpetual displacement of power and ideologies. For now, the development of marginal architectural practices like the ones we’ve presented in both issues of Accattone seems to resist commercial practices more and more embedded in architecture today. Not all minor architecture succeeds in the task, to the extent that some examples could be regarded as critical mannerism, 13 a discourse within the discourse, for art’s sake, with no impact on reality. This is why most projects are more effective in real domestic environments rather than in the spaces usually provided by architectural culture, magazines, exhibitions and lectures. Ambiguity is almost unavoidable in such projects. If we compare them, a number of differences and faux amis can be pointed out, besides the many similitudes. From Facteur Cheval’s Ideal Palace as a selfmade, lay friend of Soane’s Museum, to Mies van der Rohe’s elegiac space applied in everyday materials and domesticity by Heyvaert and De Vylder. Faux amis (‘false friends’) is used to designate words that have a similar written or spoken form in French and English but different meanings. It is also the subtitle of the exhibition catalogue presenting works by French end-of-the-century photographer Eugène Atget and Richard Wentworth’s end-of-thefollowing-century photographs, in which it is argued that besides similarities there is a fundamental difference in their treatment of timeliness — the former frosting time for eternity, the latter seizing an unstable situation for a moment (“Atget’s baguettes can never look fresh”).14 Faux Amis was then used by Irenée Scalbert as the title of an essay on the relationship between architectural practice and criticism.15 The Smithsons’ Upper Lawn pavilion and Brandlhuber’s Antivilla. Éric Lapierre’s plan of 4x4 identical rooms for a house in Combray and Martinez Barat Lafore’s themes of ‘useful patterns’ and ‘inalienable design’. Indifferences and sensibilities to geometrical and political contexts. Building from models (Lapierre) and building from montages (Baukunst), photographing building sites as if they were models, and photographing models as possible realities. Close but distant, narratives and inventories can never fully expound a gesture, yet their interplay is certainly appealing.


5 Risk of splitting is reduced by blunting the point of the nail with the hammer before use as the flattened end cuts and crushes a few fibres locally reducing the stress cause by deformation of fibres around the nails. This technique is described in many carpentry manuals but it is also very new. Until the end of the nineteenth century, nails were cut and had a naturally flat end. With the expansion of electricity at the end of the nineteenth century, drawing metals into wire was perfected at an industrial scale bringing about the wire nail and its pointed tip. In mid-nineteenth century American nails were so valuable that when a new building was erected to replace an old one the original was often burnt down to reclaim the nails – timber was clearly plentiful. The opposite was probably true in Europe.

96 hands, ETH, Zurich, 2010 Small building designed and constructed in two weeks by 48 students using reclaimed materials and entirely made using hammers and nails.The timber is cut from a tree; mechanical. Steel for nails is smelted — heat. Nailing is one of the most ancient and basic way to assemble things. The hammer drives the point of the nail violently in between the wood fibres.5 Multiple nails in close proximity or near the end of the timber member risks causing splitting. The structure required shear strength in the joint. The number of nails needed would have destroyed the end of the timber had it not been for the circular arrangement of nail which misaligns the nail with the grain. The beginnings of the decorative. Photo Boris Gusic/Nick Lobo Brennan, 2010


6 The set is the term given by Claude Lévi-Strauss in the Science of the Concrete (Savage Mind, 1966) to described the limited resources available to the bricoleur. The set, which may well be the product of previous events or structures is often pre-constrained as the materials were originally intended for other ends but have to be redirected towards the current task. Working with a limited set is an apt metaphor for the finite resources of our planet.

JAU revisited, ETH, Zurich, 2011 96 Hands was dismantled (not burnt) to build a copy of Jaū bus station designed by Villanova Artigas in 1974, in the province of São Paulo. Again, designed and built by the students in two weeks a completely different structure, volume and enclosure were created from the same set.6 The structure aimed to recreate the complex plastic geometry of Artigas’s concrete structure (chemical). While formally counter intuitive the formwork for the original structure was in wood, so why not? Photo Tom Emerson, 2011 Original photos from a book. Can’t remember which one.


Arvid Wretman: blue alian 3d printing like mad skills Delia, Telio & Zyco Eyed sunglasses stare dare devil into the night eye flippin flaps like. Natasja Loutchko: so so slowly slide down on me and roll like a jelly fish on m d mmmmmm a #pressurepleasure #neverleav @ntash. Candice Jacobs: fags n deco butts zig zagz like everywhere, not all gold shimmer shines like bright diamonds. Michele Gabriele: all sxt up in soapy water formed by dipping rubber, sweats hop hip bag it up like a kite, such high times don e ven. Valentinas KlimaĹĄauskas: flexin M&M uscules in acid laced blazer, re-flexin eyez ball burnin like lcd miming.



Stanley Knife Architecture TEXT AND IMAGES ÉRIC LAPIERRE


1 The fascinating power of the Stanley knife, which, placed in the hands of an architect by training, made it possible to take control of the first plane to hit the World Trade Center, and which enables us to define the limits of direct architecture with imploded complexity.

Architecture possesses remarkable intelligibility and strength when it is represented; the weightiness of reality tends to strip it of this ideal and primordial vividness. It is in this represented state that architecture is closest to revealing its secrets; through this, its unfathomable character manifests itself. Representations of architecture do not bother with trivial, ephemeral details. Practising architecture consists in fulfilling built dreams. Starting out from the ordinary built reality – which is, by definition, not very significant – the architect defines significant arrangements by placing his or her projects in a borderline state, like the dreamer who, through a series of distortions, places reality on its own borderline, by means of dreams made significant by their illegibility. The dream carries out distortions of likelihood in order to speak its own language and underline, through these distortions, a chosen dimension of reality. Architecture plays a similar role when it loads significant mysteries onto the built world: it renders reality imaginary and imagination real by making them converge mutually towards its own territory, which is a field of dreams. In the elaboration of my own built dreams, the model plays the role of a dream within a dream: it is an object of transition between the ideas and the real building. It materializes the ideas and idealizes the material through the abstraction that emerges naturally out of its own limitations; in this sense it is a metaphor of architecture itself, which plays an identical role on the scale of the real objects. For this reason, the model in my work is much more than a means of representation as it is usually defined; it is architecture itself. Our models do not seek to resemble our buildings; on the contrary, our buildings are the literal enlargement of our models. The model is a metaphor of architecture itself in the way it offers a concrete abstraction of reality. Practising architecture often consists in placing an abstracting grid on built reality. The rigorous enlargement of our models in order to make buildings enables us to guarantee the accuracy of this abstraction while nevertheless ensuring that it does not come down to a simple graphic tool cut off from building data: if a detail cannot be deleted when the model is being built, it is because it is indispensable to the construction of this form, and deserves to be built in reality; if a project is too complex to be built as a model with glue and a Stanley knife, it is of no interest to us as architecture. The economy of means of our models is ontologically similar to that of our very architecture. The technical limitation of our models – Stanley knife and glue – guarantees the quality of our architecture.1 Beyond that, constructing buildings like models is of interest to us because the process of literally enlarging a small, manipulable

object made of cardboard and paper on the scale of a real-property object consists in changing its profound nature by acting on its sole dimension. This influence of quantity over quality is what characterized the effects of the Industrial Revolution on the world and what created the ordinary condition in which we act now that all phenomena are mass phenomena. So our own work method reproduces this foundational phenomenon as a means to link the handmade past of singular objects from a time when architecture was rare, to the industrial present of the generic objects of an architecture immersed by nature in the ordinary condition. In the case of the house in Combray, the breeze-block construction of hollow insulating bricks guarantees the plan’s schematism: identical rooms, identical walls, like the initial model designed with a single sheet of foam board, and like the ideal drawing of a grid regardless of its scale – carpets, the joints of a masonry wall, city plan, data table, weaving, wire netting, building plan, etc. Four by four rooms to obtain substantial plan depth, so that house and room share the same proportions, and so that it is impossible to occupy the centre. The facades are simply dressed in a shiny white resin ensuring watertightness. Like all the other walls, they sound hollow to the touch, like a music instrument, like an object that contains. Perceived from outside, the house appears and sounds like a large porcelain object, the first object in the inhabitants’ collection of objects and which contains the others: a large container housing elements that are identical to itself in a sense, but on a different scale, like a Duchampian box-in-a-suitcase placed in a field, whose interior unfolds into far more spaces than there are rooms, because of the different houses in the house which are created by the different groupings and possible connections: day house, night house, parents’ house or children’s house, imperceptible spaces, obvious spaces. The more identical things are, the better one perceives their differences.


previous spread Erica Overmeer, Archipelago. Archipelago is a large format print of unlimited dimensions and its concurrent publication as a limited edition, one-image book. Archipelago was made in the context of Arno Brandlhuber’s exhibition Im Archipel at KOW gallery, Berlin, 2012. It is a depiction of the fungus that developed in the drywalls of the exhibition space after the intentional flooding of the premises by Brandlhuber as part of his spatial intervention. The image Archipelago is inherently connected to the concept of ‘archipelic thought’ and the idea of the urban environment as a fragmented and open system of independent, interdependent urban occurrences, continuously oscillating between form and process. Hardcover, hand-bound in varying gradations of light grey, mud green pale blue and pink cloth, 230 x 280 mm, 8 pages, 1 colour image. Limited edition of 100, numbered. Amsterdam, O Book Publisher, 2014. Brandlhuber’s studio in Berlin, Brunnenstrasse 9, while working on Accattone #2. Photo: Constanze Haas


The publication of Antivilla and Rachel led to an unexpected and complex exchange of documents and ideas with Arno Brandlhuber, Tobias Hönig and Thomas Burlon, which we publish in full. Two questions were addressed, to which they replied with a first 36-page PDF full of images; the starting point of a ping-pong conversation through emailed PDFs.


Dear Brandlhuber+ Two of your projects could make a link between the first and second issue: Antivilla and Rachel. The approach we would like to use is to concentrate on performance and construction, degré zéro, the Primitive Hut. If you are interested in contributing, we could start from there and have a brief exchange on the documents to publish. Most of the publication is built around documents, and how they can interact to build a narrative. Two questions could either be printed along your work or simply help us situate your work along the other contributions in our editorial. Q1. Materiality and Performance.

Q2. Minor architecture.

Both Antivilla and Rachel almost use a single material, concrete, appealing to a very strong, almost primitive presence of architecture. Several features are also a reminder of the building site, of its past. The window frames in the Antivilla seem to just hang to the walls. We think of similar attitudes in architectural history, for instance at the Upper Lawn Pavilion by Alison and Peter Smithson: we see a connection with Brutalism as a way of keeping the design direct and honest. How do you relate to these approaches? Moreover, both Antivilla and Rachel have the act of their transformation embedded in their walls — the most visible aspect of their design. In Accattone #1 we borrowed from Anne Holtrop the term ‘material gesture’ to address what is designed with the hand, and not with the mind. We see similar approaches in other works of yours, principally installations (the flood of Brunnenstrasse for instance). Do you also use material gestures in your everyday design practice? To what materials? How does this ‘science of concrete’ influence your work?

In your polemic on the “Green Archipelago” you take a stance against the major forces which shape the city: building consortiums, lobbies, gated communities, ‘urban renewal’ and the like. As an institution of power, architecture cannot be the revolutionary agent of a space of freedom, as it always represents power. At least, this is the thesis of critics like Manfredo Tafuri, when facing the impossible pretension of ‘radicality’ of left-wing architects of the 1970s. Today, even less architects engage in any struggle for public space, democracy, from within the institutions. Major architecture (public buildings, city planning, social housing) seems abandoned by intellectuals in favour of a less ambitious but feasible target: small acts of resistance, individual statements, private houses, eventually art galleries or cultural centres. Is this engagement with ordinariness, littleness, and the everyday a form of renunciation? Or the only possible Realpolitik to which an architect could aim at? Besides built architecture, university also seems to constitute a place for education and resistance. This is, at least, the impression we have from Belgium and England. Are we wrong? Do you have an opinion on this topics, based on your experience?


148 Rachel. Photo: Caspar Viereckel

B+ The apprentices were asked to do windows of the same size but with different techniques. A Is the story linked with the Copy+paste project next door ? B+

VEB-Obertrikotagen Slip. Found objects before the transformation started: a fine Rib Slip made by VEB Obertrikotagen Ernst Lück. Photo: Tobias Hönig Obertrikotage means knitted outerwear. Those were produced at VEB Obertrikotagen ‘Ernst Lück’ in Wittstock, in their factory in Krampnitz they only produced fine rip slips.

Brandlhuber+, concept sketch and model for Copy+Paste, 2011

VEB Obertrikotagen Krampnitz Lohnzettel. Payslip of the former manufacture, February 1989. Photo: Tobias Hönig

A By the format they are both taking, your contribution and the one by Tom Emerson (6a architects, London, and studio at ETH Zurich) are implicitly related. These images you display, on the free association with traces of the past, respond to their use of anonymous pictures of the building they were about to refurbish in London, Raven Row gallery. The recollection of these traces serves as the operative motive of the project. It is not historicism, as the relationship with the trace is loose. But if this recollection does not aim at demonstrating anything about the past, it does express something about the present conditions of the project, the changing social, economic and political conditions of the building. Architecture cannot be revolutionary but still it can provide elements to challenge market-established values: like lakeside pseudo-villas and urban ‘condos’. In the two texts you sent us (Moritz Küng’s and Niklas Maak’s) it is mentioned that the windows were originally placed by apprentices, so that they were all quite different. Would you have images of that ?

Like the title of your magazine also the Antivilla is linked to a movie. The 1973 French Themroc. I think it shows quite good not only the way of treating the new materials but also the existing.

Themroc Kreutzberg. We came across this image in an advertisement by Contemporary Fine Art (CFA Berlin). The picture was taken by Wolfang Krolow, who is sort of the chronicler for Berlin Kreuzberg.


CONTRIBUTORS Aurélien Froment (1976, France) is an artist living in Dublin. Recent solo exhibitions include Fröbel Fröbeled at CAG (Vancouver), Villa Arson (Nice), Spike Island (Bristol), Le PlateauFRAC Ile de France (Paris) and Heidelberger Kunstverein (2014-2015). Many other institutions have organised solo presentations of his work: Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe (2015); Le Crédac, Ivry-sur-Seine; Pavilion, Leeds; Musée de Rochechouart (all 2011); CCA Wattis, San Francisco; Gasworks, London (both 2009). His work was featured in the Sydney Biennial (2014), the Venice Biennial (2013), the Lyon Biennial, the Yokohama Triennale (2011) and the Gwangju Biennial (2010). He is represented in Paris by Marcelle Alix. Koenraad Dedobbeleer (1975) lives in Brussels. With Kris Kimpe he publishes the architecture magazine UP. Recent solo exhibitions: A Quarrel in a Faraway Country between People of Whom We Know Nothing, GAK, Bremen (2014); Workmanship of Certainty, Centre d’art contemporain d’Ivry – le Crédac, Ivry-sur-Seine (2013); Formidable Savage Repressiveness, Kunstmuseum St. Gallen (2012); A Privilege of Autovalorization, Culturgest, Lisbon (2010); Boredom Won’t Starve As Long As I Feed It, Museum Haus Esters, Krefeld (2009). Baukunst was founded by Adrien Verschuere in Brussels in 2007 as a continuation of his activities in Switzerland. Being a synthesis between the capacity to build (Bau) and design (Kunst), the firm considers architecture as the construction of an idea as well as an idea of construction. Adrien Verschuere is a studio tutor, Master degree, at the Université Catholique de Louvain. After graduating with Prof. E. Zenghelis in 1999 he has collaborated with Herzog & de Meuron and OMA. He is co-founder of the award-winning firm Made in, Geneva, and he has taught at the EPFL from 2003 to 2006. Maxime Delvaux is a Belgian photographer specialised in architecture. In 2013 he carried out the whole photographic work for the book Inventaires #1 displaying recent projects in Wallonia and Brussels. In 2014 he collaborated with the curators of the Belgian pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale, taking thousands of pictures of Belgian interiors. 250 of these pictures were published in the catalogue Interiors. Notes and Figures, while his work about the power of propaganda in North Korea, DPRK 2012, was exhibited in the Korean pavilion. Manuel Montenegro is an architect and academic based in Porto and Zurich. He is currently developing PhD research on the overlapping of teaching and design in the Porto School (1974-today), under the supervision of Philip Ursprung in the GTA – ETH Zürich. He has taught design, construction and history studios in the Faculdade de Arquitectura da Universidade do Porto (2008-14). Maximiliaan Royakkers (1988) is an architect living and working in Brussels. His work ranges from writing screenplays and inventing materials,

making models and drawings, to building tables and scenography. He graduated from the architecture-engineering department at the KULeuven and the Studio For Immediate Spaces at the Sandberg Institute Amsterdam. Recently he has been collaborating with artist Pieterjan Ginckels and a variety of architecture studios.

on the re-programmation of existing buildings.

6a architects was founded by Tom Emerson and Stephanie Macdonald in London in 2001 and has since developed a reputation for award-winning contemporary art galleries, educational buildings and residential projects in sensitive historic settings. They show a feeling for time and for the vicissitudes it contributes to the life of things. Buildings are coincidences, the results of a succession of fortuitous collisions and near-misses. 6a come to them with the curiosity of anthropologists and the patience of detectives, searching for the sign that will unlock a particular situation and allow them to make the most of an occasion.

Sébastien Martinez Barat and Benjamin Lafore (1983) are two architects working in Ivry-surSeine. Between 2006 and 2013 they worked with David Apheceix as the collective La Ville Rayee; some of their projects are presented in this publication. In 2014 they co-directed Interiors. Notes and Figures, an exhibition and catalogue for the Belgian pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Their projects vary from object design, residential spaces and exhibitions as well as research displayed as publications. After winning the Villa Kujoyama prize in Kyoto, in 2016 they will develop a series of architecture workshops.

Studio Tom Emerson at ETH Zurich was founded in 2010. Students have undertaken a series of collective projects exploring the architectural potential of re-use and bricolage in full scale construction projects designed and built by them, and large scale surveys of post-industrial European cities. These two sets of projects present a similar story at opposite scales, from material to the city. Good Times & Nocturnal News is a collaborative project of curatorial dimension, culminating in a large-format newspaper. GT&NN has grown into a nomadic newsprint publication, initiated in 2012 by artist Carl Palm (SE), later joined by Egle Kulbokaite (SE) and building on the tradition of artist’s books, presenting voices by artists and writers in a consciously abstract collaborative compilation. GT&NN individuates by providing the reader with a collection of art writing and imagery on an undisclosed topic, ascribing no specific name to each contribution. So far, GT&NN has been released in three issues and has proven to be an exciting platform for discussions and collaborations in print. Eric Lapierre is an architect and a writer whose practice, Eric Lapierre Experience, is based in Paris. He teaches architecture, history and theory at the Architecture School of Marne-la-Vallee and at the Accademia di Mendrisio, and is guest professor at the EPFL. His production is characterised by its theoretical dimension, so as to define the present ordinary condition. Brandlhuber+ is a practice based in Berlin. Arno Brandlhuber holds the chair of architecture and urban research at the Academy of Fine Arts, Nuremberg and is directing the nomadic masters program He is co-founder of the public seminar Akademie c/o, currently researching on the spatial production of the Berlin Republic. Tobias Hönig is assistant professor at, teaches the master-studio Chermayeff & Hönig at Dessau Institute of Architecture (DIA) and works with two offices, Brandlhuber+ and his own VIHR, in Berlin. Thomas Burlon is one of three partners at Brandlhuber+ besides Arno Brandlhuber and Markus Emde. In 2014 he taught at TU Berlin and is currently researching

Erica Overmeer is an artist and photographer living and working in Amsterdam and Berlin. She studied at the Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam. Working with architecture and photography, her work is internationally published and exhibited.

Magazine on architecture Issue 2, September 2015 Contact: Accattone asbl Rue d’Artois 52, B-1000 Brussels Editors: Sophie Dars & Carlo Menon Graphic design: Ismaël Bennani & Orfée Grandhomme Associated editor on Dedobbeleer and Heyvaert: Maximiliaan Royakkers Translation of Lapierre: Patrick Lennon Proofreading: Isabelle Jusseaume Printed in Belgium ISSN 2295-6255 52 9 772295


17€ © the editors of Accattone and the featured authors. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be photocopied, scanned, digitised, or otherwise reproduced without written permission, aside from rare exceptions, as stipulated by copyright laws. The editors have been careful to contact all copyright holders of the illustrations appearing in this issue. If you claim ownership of any of the illustrations presented in this issue and have not been properly credited, please contact us and we will be happy to print a formal acknowledgement in the next issue. Accattone is published by a non-profit organisation registered in Belgium (BE 0550.585.163)

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