27 November 2009, Paris, Espace Oscar Niemeyer, 11 a.m.Mr President (Patrick COULOMBEL), Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would first like to convey to you the personal interest of Frédéric Mitterrand, Minister of Culture and Communication, in your conference, and more generally in the action of the Architects of Emergency, as he recently had the opportunity to assure your President, Mr. Patrick COULOMBEL.
The organizers of this day are of course too numerous for me to greet them all individually, but their very number and the diversity of their origins testify to the maturity now acquired by the Architects of the emergency. However, I will mention the names of the two great architects who are the sponsors of this meeting:
Rudy RICCIOTTI, first of all, National Grand Prix of Architecture, brilliant whistleblower of a philistine conception of sustainable development and very early involved in your approach, but also and perhaps above all the author of this symbolic project of the Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean in Marseille, the famous MUCEM, whose minister will symbolically lay the first stone, with the officials of the local authorities, Monday next 30 November.
As for Shigeru BAN, author of our Centre Pompidou in Metz, he is probably the most popular Japanese architect of his generation among architecture and humanitarian students, not only because of its official role as advisor to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, but even more for the quality of its creations. I am thinking in particular of the paper church of Kobe, built only a few months after the earthquake and which, in itself, represents the best and most moving illustration of the message of the architecture of urgency: speed, but not precariousness; simplicity, but quality, cultural and spiritual symbol.
The Architects of Emergency are a young institution, which quickly took its place in the world of French humanitarian institutions such as Doctors without Borders or the Red Cross, but also foreign as the Islamic Relief. The Architects of Emergency, a Foundation recognized for public utility, also benefit from the recognition of the highest authorities including the UN, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which issues to this NGO a permanent visa to intervene worldwide.
It is an institution but it is also a great adventure, an Odyssey of which the ULYSSES, Mr Patrick COULOMBEL is, and it is not a chance, a sailor, bold and skillful, able to face the storms, but also to negotiate the most delicate moorings... Two dates mark this adventure: 2001, the Somme; 2009, Indonesia and, in between, interventions in 24 countries and the original and exemplary construction of a know-how, a culture, an ethics.
When the Ministry of Culture and Communication gave its green light and its support to Patrick COULOMBEL’s initiative of the catastrophic floods of the Somme, it was difficult to foresee that the association would develop its interventions all over the world and would come to the aid of the populations tried so much by the so-called natural risks (which are often greatly aggravated, if not caused by man), only by disasters caused by conflicts, localized as in Gaza, or spread over large territories through population migrations.
This civic dimension of your profession makes you the honour and conscience of the profession. Aid to these populations is the architect’s mission, which must provide humanity with the “home” without which it cannot survive, regardless of the circumstances.
To be an architect of emergency is first and foremost to be an architect, and, as Patrick COULOMBEL says, I quote: "to have the conviction to carry out his profession of architect by placing it in a social and solidarity role, far removed from the clichés of the profession", and to add: “Our basic duty is to house people.” Beautiful profession of faith – and beautiful faith in your profession!
In the field, in your training activities, in contact with “humanitarian workers”, with architects and engineers from different countries, you have built what could be called a new professional culture. New, because it had to face unique challenges for architects and was forced to solve new, but fruitful, contradictions between urgency and architecture.
In fact, the architectural project is by definition long-term: it has a preliminary project, studies, sketches, a project that is the subject of an agreement sanctioned by the client and which triggers the process that goes up to the realization, reception and commissioning. In an emergency, nothing like this: neither chronology, nor anticipation, nor division of labour, nor, above all, predictability. In this great upheaval, you must, in the blink of an eye, estimate the damage and make a diagnosis, not really “blindly”, but in view of a knowledge of the phenomena, their occurrence, places, local cultures. This is a real cultural revolution.
The time given to you is therefore not that of the project, especially since the risks and the damage you are facing, paradoxically, refer to the long duration, the recurrence of climatic phenomena, the aggravation of these phenomena often because of the unpredictability and prodigality of humans. We all hope that the Copenhagen summit, which will be held in less than a month, will produce positive measures to respond to the climate ultimatum before us.
You intervene on the habitat and it is essential to look at its environment, and to take into account the global nature of your intervention and the interactions between it and its consequences, sometimes harmful. Access to water, hygiene and respect for the environment, in its many constituent aspects, will make you avoid certain choices. For example, the use of wood, which seems attractive in our latitudes, is not without its problems, because deforestation increases the risks – of soil depletion, landslides, food shortages.
Faced with such serious and complex problems, you cannot be alone; you work in a community of interprofessional and international skills with which you share a professional ethic and an ethics of peace and respect for the land. For you, sustainable development is not a slogan but a permanent requirement, provided that this requirement is at the service of the people. Your land is resolutely human. That is why, in the face of the challenges of urgency, you call upon local heritage and know-how.
This new professional culture, it is today transmitted and developed through training actions, still too few, I understand, in relation to the present and future challenges that we are and will face, but this is already an important first step.
It is, first of all, the diploma of specialization and deepening in architecture, the DSA «Architecture and major risks», fruit of a partnership between five national graduate schools of architecture and the great Ateliers de l'Isle d'Abeau, and which is concerned with taking into account the risks are of anthropogenic or natural origin.
It also involves training architects and local stakeholders, in particular to promote the transfer of know-how and to avoid the “brain drain”. Here again, rooting in the local culture is a way of responding to the emergency by the long term.
You yourselves have been kind enough to take on courses for professionals who could be mobilized immediately, on the basis of a humanitarian motivation and whose training must test both reliability, resistance and human qualities, before launching them in various technically and socially complex fields. The fundamental purpose of this continuing training is to structure the voluntary intervention of architects in a disaster environment.
The Minister attaches great importance to this training. That is why, for 2010, I am pleased to tell you that the appropriations granted to it will be doubled.
I know that this international conference is already a success because of the richness and quality of the interventions and the number of participants. It remains for me to wish you much courage, not so much for the continuation of your work and interventions in this symposium, but for your missions on the ground, and to assure you once again that we will be resolutely at your side.