Corrientes de rigor
Viviendas en la calle Émile Durkheim, París Housing on Rue Émile Durkheim, Paris
Torre de Crédit Lyonnais, Euralille Crédit Lyonnais Tower, Euralille
Facultad de Arte y Humanidades, Grenoble Arts and Human Sciences Faculty, Grenoble
Artes de la memoria
Ampliación del Museo de Bellas Artes, Lille Extension of Fine Arts Museum, Lille
Colder, Drier, Plainer
France cools down. With the death of Mitterrand went a certain idea of republican grandeur; the last round of presidential projects bid farewell to the last architect of Paris, but also to the French ambition of occupying a singular place in the world. France's statist and centralist model, without which the latest generation of grand architectural works cannot be understood, loses validity in the neo-liberal tide, which encourages dispersion and deregulation in the free ocean of the global market. The country's diplomatic fiascos in Europe and Africa, the loss of prestige of political elites, the economic slowdown caused by cuts in public spending and the spread of social marginalization have together brought about collective discouragement and the rise of fascism. The recent parliamentary elections, which have placed a placid protestant socialist in the post of prime minister, have served as a barometer for the prevailing malaise, but failed to remedy the general climate of demoralization.
It is in this disoriented panorama that French architecture, eroded by budgetary constraints, finishes the projects that were initiated in better times and wonders what strategy it should take in order to survive during the foreseeably protracted period of material and symbolic austerity. The great emblematic projects are now a thing of the past, but so is the ideological and stylistic ferment that gave France's architectural production an attractive intellectual glamour. From immaterial transparency to neo-Corbusian historicism, and from mediatic architecture to sculptural expressionism, innumerable tendencies of high culture have paraded on French catwalks. While the American academic avant-garde fed on the French literary haute cuisine, from Foucault to Barthes and from Bataille to Derrida, the architects of the Hexagon relished on finding abstract ideas in the glorious and ephemeral feast of tangible forms.
All these schools and tendencies now take part in a subdued dialogue among themselves or with the illustrious group of foreign guests that France has always prided itself on about the future of a colder, drier or plainer architecture. The visual finesse and material refinement of these French works invites us to pay attention to this dialogue, which fluctuates between typological urbanity and contextual picturesqueness, and between the penitential rigor of expressive silence and the light loquacity of decorated skins. In this debate on abstraction and populism, we miss some of the higher and more lucid voices, such as those of Nouvel and Perrault, whose provisional absence probably deprives the conversation of many arguments and episodes. But France has always made debate an artistic form, so even if deprived of some protagonists and immersed in the gray weather of the turn of the century, the dialogue that the architects of the Hexagon are engaged in deserves our eye and ear.