Dear Jean-Louis Cohen, Commissioner of the French Pavilion,
Dear Pierre Colliot, Secretary General of the French Institute,
Dear Vincent Berjot, Director General of Heritage,
Mr President of the Cité de l'architecture et du patrimoine, dear Guy Amsellem,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased to present to you the French pavilion of the International Biennial of Architecture of Venice which I will have the pleasure of inaugurating on 5 June, for its 14thth publishing.
It will be the inauguration of the French pavilion but also that of the new calendar of the Biennale which is now based on that of the Biennale d'art contemporain, thus going from 3 months of presence to almost 6 months, from June to November. I like to think that this harmonization is not only the fruit of calendar coherence but also that of the growing success of the Architecture Biennale in Venice.
It is also for us the inauguration of a new fashion in the choice of the commissioner of the French pavilion, which is now exercised in a collegiality proper to guarantee more transparency, as Laurent Fabius and I wished.
Jean-Louis Cohen was the first commissioner of this new era. Historian and architect, particularly a specialist in 20th century architecture and urban planning, he brings a counterpoint to «Fundamentals», the theme of the Biennale developed this year by its commissioner general Rem Koolhaas. A counterpoint or a critical analysis of fifty years of French intellectual and architectural production, through a question: «Modernity, promise or threat?».
I will leave it to you, dear Jean-Louis Cohen, to detail yourself, the heart of this question and the way you wished to illustrate it in the French pavilion, but to say just two words in my own way, I would say that your project is a journey that never ceases to question the contradictions proper to the modern movement, bearer of hope and generosity, demanding and moral, wishing to respond in the most adequate way to the new conditions of life of the industrial century, seeking in some way to offer the best possible landscape to this new era, the so-called international style, which was at the same time, or rather gradually, distorted by a logic of technical standardization whose result will be a serial production of housing in particular, whose architectural, urban and societal poverty will no longer have anything to do with the prime ideals.
To build your story, you imagined three moments:
- the exhibition presented in the French pavilion. You entrusted the scenography to the Projectiles architecture workshop (Reza Azard, Hervé Bouttet and Daniel Meszaros), which won the Nouveaux albums des jeunes architectes in 2006. I am particularly pleased because I just proclaimed two weeks ago the new session of albums of young architects and landscapers, and that this scheme for the promotion of young professionals organized by my Ministry is a fundamental element of the support and attention that must be given to the builders of tomorrow.
- the film, directed by Teri Wehn Damisch, and shown simultaneously in the four galleries.
- and the book, co-published by the Institut français and Dominique Carré, which presents 101 emblematic buildings, one building per year during the century that you started in 1914 and that ends in 2014. This book is the result, under your direction, and assisted by Vanessa Grossman, of multiple contributions that have allowed to choose and analyze these buildings representative of their time.
I am particularly pleased with the place made at the cinema to show the architecture on the French pavilion. It is often difficult to exhibit architecture, especially for a non-professional audience. With the film of Teri Wehn Damisch, which presents archival images, extracts of fiction films by Jacques Tati and Jean-Luc Godard, as well as glimpses of the Parisian metropolis of today, the emotion is at the rendezvous.
I would point out that the installation of this pavilion is also the subject of an innovation since it is based for the first time on a tripartite agreement between the Ministry of Culture and Communication, the Institut français - I recall that he is the operator of the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for international cultural exchanges - and the City of Architecture and Heritage, a public establishment under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture and Communication, and who is the delegate producer of the event.
I would also like to point out that the French presence in Venice is not limited to the French pavilion.
- This year it will take place in the central pavilion of the biennial, at the invitation of Rem Koolhaas, with the participation of Claude Parent, father of the oblique, of the architecture and urban planning agency AUC (Djamel Klouche, Corinne Poulin and François Decoster) associated with Cédric Libert and Thomas Raynaud for their project entitled Mediterranea.
- It comes with the Afex, which I would be pleased to present to the Palazzo Zorzi, the Grand Prix of French Architecture in the World, established in 2010, and which this year will crown Christian de Portzamparc for its magnificent Cité des Arts in Rio de Janeiro.
- It is developed with the Wilmotte Corporate Foundation, which organizes an architecture competition every year with the aim of promoting the meeting of heritage and architectural creation. In 2014, the competition proposed to
design a cultural and event centre in the heart of the Tower of London. The winners of this session will be exhibited during the biennial.
- Finally, the exhibition Young architects in Africa, organized by Architecture Studio, which founded the CA'ASI Association to promote dialogue between architecture, contemporary art and the public of the Biennale di Venezia.
As you can see, a rich and diverse French presence that reflects the vitality of our architects and their influence abroad, despite a difficult economic context.
The theme of this year’s French pavilion questions an era. In many respects, our time is comparable, although it is not a question of rebuilding but of building. Building housing in particular, with extremely high quantitative targets and financial constraints.
As Minister of Culture and Communication, I want to reaffirm the need to also take into account the issue of architectural quality. Contrary to what some suggest, using an architect is not a luxury. Using an architect is not another standard that others would have us believe. Using an architect means relying on the intelligence of a trained professional to design the spaces of our daily life. Architecture is an act of civilization, not construction. The 1977 Act, which enshrines the public interest in architecture, is very explicit in this regard. The architectural quality covers all aspects essential to our living environment: architectural creation, construction techniques, harmonious urban and landscape insertion and, of course, quality of use.
With time, yes, a well thought out and well realized architecture can save a lot! And it is also the guarantee of a lasting improvement of our living environment. The part of the dream that architecture conveys does not stop at invention or gesture. It becomes a reality if architects are involved in our collective design throughout a process in which the human being is the main subject. This is the challenge that this year’s French pavilion invites us to take a critical look at recent history. I hope that this exhibition will be an opportunity to question the political and economic actors on this fundamental issue, to which we must, together and with the architects, provide appropriate answers.
I would like to close this speech by warmly thanking Jean-Louis Cohen, Commissioner of the French Pavilion; the partners accompanying us, in particular the President of the French Institute, Xavier Darcos and his teams. I am very grateful to the Cité de l'architecture et du patrimoine, which has been responsible for the production; the Advent Group, which will make a special virtual tour of the French pavilion, which you can see on the website of the biennale, and that will make it possible to extend the reach of the French pavilion, by offering all those who will not be able to travel, and I am thinking particularly of architecture students, the opportunity to walk there. I would also like to thank the light creators Iguzzini, Saint-Gobain and finally the INA for their participation in the production of the pavilion film.