June 5, 2016 - LiFE – submarine base in Saint-Nazaire - Raumlaborberlin: NEOCODOMOUSSE
June 5, 2016

LiFE – submarine base in Saint-Nazaire

© raumlaborberlin.

Raumlaborberlin
NEOCODOMOUSSE
June 3–October 9, 2016

Construction workshop: August 9–13, open to all

LiFE – submarine base in Saint-Nazaire
Boulevard de la Légion d'Honneur
Alveole 14
44600 Saint-Nazaire
France
Hours: Tuesday and Thursday–Sunday 2–7pm

T +33 2 40 00 41 68
life@mairie-saintnazaire.fr

lelifesaintnazaire.wordpress.com
Facebook

Raumlaborberlin
NEOCODOMOUSSE
June 3–October 9, 2016

Construction workshop: August 9–13, open to all

LiFE – submarine base in Saint-Nazaire
Boulevard de la Légion d'Honneur
Alveole 14
44600 Saint-Nazaire
France
Hours: Tuesday and Thursday–Sunday 2–7pm

T +33 2 40 00 41 68
life@mairie-saintnazaire.fr

lelifesaintnazaire.wordpress.com
Facebook

Participatory foundations
Raumlaborberlin is a collective of nine architects, city planners and artists. Their name could translate as both space and laboratory: a neologism referencing experimentation and empirical research, guided by a community manufacturing process.

According to the requirements of the project, the members of raumlaborberlin are willing collaborators; it is a way of responding in the most appropriate way to the context, which is necessarily specific when the question of urban renewal is being addressed. The collective is preoccupied with urban planning, and always involves the inhabitants and multiplies exchanges with users as much as with experts. This participative method leads to a number of formal hypotheses, in which architecture is considered as mobile and modular, related to public space, and a receptacle for interactions. 

Tipping points
In Saint-Nazaire, raumlaborberlin is working with a powerful context: the LiFE, the submarine base, the shipyards, the town reaching out towards the Loire and the ocean, and a dramatic history. From all of this, raumlaborberlin has taken some decisive moments and distinguished particular tipping points: the fact that the shipyards are currently building an outsized liner baptised "Harmony of the Seas." Or that the exhibition site, the LiFE, is made from part of the colossal bunker built by the Wehrmacht: a block of concrete inherited from darker times that separates the town from the sea, a space of death rehabilitated as a site of life that now houses different cultural facilities. raumlaborberlin focuses itself on these tipping points in history, where an architectural object is distanced from its initial function and transformed into something unsuspected by dynamically going beyond itself.

Analogies, proximities, rebounds
This reflection on how some spaces mutate leads the collective to shift, by analogy of form or of thought, towards other celebrated examples from architectural history such as Fourier’s phalanstery or the Familistère of Guise. The covered communal courtyard of that cooperative building recalls the interior courtyard of "Harmony of the Seas," the immense liner previously mentioned. How is it that communities of such different natures can flourish in the same type of space? How does space act on the collective, and inversely?

Another architectural adventure that caught raumlaborberlin’s attention is the Tower of David in Caracas, which was transformed into a self-managed squat or the unité d’habitation the Cité Radieuse from Le Corbusier. For raumlaborberlin, those examples of realised utopias closely express the thinking behind the exhibition. 

Guiding lights 
How can the perfect architecture for a democratic society be thought through?

raumlaborberlin invokes other guiding figures: the architect Yona Friedman and his manifesto project the Spatial city, a town made up of mobile cells in the service of the inhabitant, a harmony between mankind and its environment under the concept of self-building, where users conceive their own built environment, in an approach to architecture that is open to everyone’s interventions.

Another major influence: Hans Walter Müller, to whom, inflatable architecture remains the perfect answer to numerous questions, by injecting a light pulsation, full of life, into the habitat. The mobile and ephemeral structure of his studio is a new example of realised utopia. 

The prospective studio
As a community, raumlaborberlin privileges collective working, which allows ways of living and building together to be experimented with on a daily basis.

raumlaborberlin envisage the transformation of the LiFE into an open studio, a laboratory of reflection on the collective habitat, a site of production and an exhibition that could recount a history of Saint-Nazaire imprinted with community life and work and ask the following question: what contemporary form could this history take? Into what type of space do we wish to project our ideas and our dreams? 

The drawing space 
Raumlaborberlin give over a substantial place at the heart of the exhibition to architectural drawing, produced collectively and by hand. The collective’s drawing sheets mix quick sketches, Pop Art-accented collages, comic strip-like storyboards and large utopian or extraordinary architectural illustrations. The propositions not only concentrate on built structures but also on exchanges within the group: they give resonance to human forms and relationships. Thus raumlaborberlin underlines some incoherencies, highlights potential stimulations of urban space through collective action, or sometimes anchors fiction in reality. 

Stronghold 
The submarine base is highlighted as a site of energy, a hub, a fabrication tool for the town. It resembles a stronghold, a rock on which a castle could be erected and a metaphor for the communal environment. The exhibition inside reveals a storage zone holding construction materials recycled from some of the waste from the company that manages the construction of large liners in Saint-Nazaire. Out of this landscape emanates the raw poetry of the inventory, an eclectic store sketching a portrait of port activity that is both a hotbed for the industrial present and the substance of the exhibition. The project mobilises the participants in the recycling industry in general: the construction sites, but also other partners such as the local structure that manages recycling centres, the collectors, institutional caterers.

The materials are borrowed and returned, temporarily removed from the circuit of exchange that they represent. raumlaborberlin captures this local resource and repurposes it to imagine habitation cells, pavilions, or more informal nests, potentially destined to contaminate the town, colonise it in the botanical sense of the term, and reinvent it. 

Open town
These dwelling modules trigger question after question: with construction sets of collected materials, raumlaborberlin examines the economy of architecture, the concept of the sustainable city, urban cohesion, the place of the expert and the user. The public will be able to try out sets of modules and processes of creative transformation through several workshops, which put into practice their central notion of co-construction. raumlaborberlin, between fiction and pragmatism, offers the public of the LiFE a chance to test out the town as a cultural site of exchange favourable to a re-enchantment of ways of being together.

Text: Eva Prouteau

Exhibition curator:
Sophie Legrandjacques, director of Le Grand Café, contemporary art centre

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