Théâtre Évolutif performs a collective action that demonstrates the cultural and physical remaking of the neighbourhood – an action that spans diverse disciplines and backgrounds. Through their direct involvement with the project, Saint-Michel residents are articulating a need for greater social innovation in the building of a sustainable city. They are giving new value to their identity with the neighbourhood and their commitment to it, even as they enact their vision of, as they put it, ‘how we want to live together’. For the municipal government, Théâtre Évolutif is a pilot project that tests a bottom-up approach to the design of the city. Time is an important aspect here. Place André Meunier and the Saint-Michel neighbourhood are currently in a state of transition, and the project itself reflects this: Théâtre Évolutif embraces the temporary. The roof structure, for example, is an open web – a modular and proliferating construction that can be extended or developed. The different areas can also be expanded and modified as needed by those who use it.
Place André Meunier, the place of all our desires.
– ‘La Charte du Collectif André Meunier’, May 2011.
Théâtre Évolutif is, fundamentally, a shelter and an agora, a place where groups and individuals can come together with a common purpose to engage with and learn from one another. Equally important, however, they can engage with and learn from the ‘relational objects’ of the Théâtre Évolutif – the open-roof structure, the water-supply infrastructure, the vegetable gardens, and the animals. For visitors to Evento 2011 Place André Meunier becomes a playground where they can discover and participate in examples of coexistence between urban life and nature, a laboratory where they see a new kind of city imagined and constructed.
The project is organized around three cycles: the dynamic cycle of citizenship (participating in the remaking of the public space), the human water cycle (the drinking water station and the public toilet), and the bio-dynamic cycle (interacting with the natural world for example, through gardening and beekeeping). The project enacts coexistence between the architectural site (Chantier architectural) and the social site (Chantier social).
The open roof structure is a symbolic construction that recycles tree trunks salvaged from the Bordeaux region as its columns. The tree trunks allude to one of the basic architectural archetypes – A man is a tree is a column for a house – and suggest that the residents of Saint-Michel are themselves the pillars of the neighborhood. The open roof structure is organized into clusters, which host a number of activities in separate areas, such as a library area, an area for expression, an area for children, an area for bricolage and storing tools, a music kiosk, a city of bees, a city of insects, a laboratory, and a picnic area; it also includes the drinking water station and the public toilet.
The drinking water station and the public toilet are part of a water-supply infrastructure that people can interact with. Rainwater collected from the roof is used for the open-air toilet and the drinking water station, where the water is purified by helophyte plant filters; the drinking water station thus offers water of drinkable quality. The toilet is not enclosed by walls, but rather it is surrounded by plants that provide sufficient visual protection from the urban surroundings. The water can also be used for the garden. In this way, as people take part in the human water cycle (eating, drinking, peeing) by using the drinking water station and the toilet, they become more aware of the issue of water as the 21st century’s most precious natural resource.
The new terrain on the square, in the form of small hills that can be cultivated or simply used for leisure, re-create a natural ecosystem. These “hills” have been made from the earth that was excavated for the construction of the public parking garage (the construction site occupies half of Place André Meunier and remains active during Evento 2011). The new terrain provides spaces for various activities in and around the roof’s clusters.
Théâtre Évolutif was initiated by Evento 2011: L’art pour re-evolution urbaine (Art for an Urban Re-Evolution) and is part of the Site of Shared Knowledge (Chantier des savoirs partagés) at Evento 2011.
Authors: OOZE architects (Eva Pfannes & Sylvain Hartenberg), Marjetica Potrč, Bureau d’études (Xavier Fourt & Léonore Bonaccini)
Project: Architectural and social structure with water-supply infrastructure, vegetable gardens and live animals
Location: Place André Meunier, Bordeaux, FR
Area: 4945 m²
Client: Evento2011: L’art pour re-évolution urbaine
Curators: Michelangello Pistoletto, Gabi Farage, Luigi Coppola, Judith Wielander, Eric Troussicot
Coordination artistic: Comissaires Anonymes (Cécile Roche Boutin & Mathilde Sauzet)
Structure & production: Alan Gentil,Marc Bertedes,Yann Argillos,Manu Mouton
With: The residents and associations of the Saint-Michel neighborhood, Fricheandcheap, La cabane
Supported by: the French Ministry of Culture and Communication (DRAC Aquitaine), Xylofutur, Bricorelais, and the Mondriaan Foundation
Photos & text: OOZE