Dear Territorial Heads of Architecture and Heritage,

President of the French National Association of Architects of Buildings,

Dear Director General of Heritage,

President of the Association of Regional Directors of Cultural Affairs,

Ladies and gentlemen,

The reason I wanted to speak to you about the opening of your national work day is to tell you how much I value your services, your functions and your people.

In recent years, the territorial state has undergone a major reorganization. As far as our Ministry is concerned, this process has resulted in your joining the regional cultural affairs directorates, while maintaining your presence in each department in the form of territorial units. This reform has thus enabled the continuity of a network of territorial services of architecture and heritage, whose vitality is reflected in your presence today. It also has the positive effect of strengthening your collaboration with the regional cultural affairs directorates and thus guaranteeing the coherence of the action of the decentralized services of the Ministry of Culture and Communication throughout the territory.

The existence of this network is an opportunity for the Ministry of Culture and Communication, because it is rooted in the reality of the territories. Your daily relations with elected officials, individuals and other State departments allow you to build up a capital of concrete experiences that must guide the reflections and initiatives of the ministry as a whole. Today’s meeting will allow you to share these experiences with headquarters and respond to projects that will be presented to you based on your knowledge of the field. Your opinion is essential because it can only reinforce these projects, evaluated against the realities experienced by all of you. So I strongly believe in the effectiveness of the network you’re building, and you can see in the meeting today the translation of my conviction.

I am also convinced of the vital importance of your duties. Your profession places you at the heart of the essential issues of our contemporary society: architectural creation, urban development and heritage protection. These three issues correspond to major public policies, all eminently respectable, but the implementation of which is not without contradictions and tensions: you live it every day. This is the difficulty, but also the nobility of your work: it is a constant search for the point of balance between divergent interests. In the vast majority of cases, the solution you are proposing is accepted by all the parties involved, which is a remarkable result. I want you to know that I am aware of this and that the few contentious situations raised in the media are not, for me, the tree that hides the forest.

I want to tell you, finally, the confidence I have in all of you. Since taking office, I have worked to build a relationship with the officers of this department based on esteem, loyalty and respect. Cultural public policy has no reality without you: you implement it. Your commitment is therefore crucial for the success of this policy. I know the difficulties some of you have faced, sometimes serious. I also know the situations of great tension that accompany some of your decisions in sensitive local contexts. I know, finally, the discomfort that certain moving operations may have brought to the organization of your services. All these situations are difficult to live with and I salute the firmness and sense of responsibility with which you face them. Your job is exciting but it is not easy: rest assured that the support of your ministry is yours.

Before discussing the subjects concerning the services that you direct in particular, I would like to briefly present to you the main lines of my architecture and heritage policy. I would like to explain this policy to you myself, because the management functions that you hold warrant that you be informed of it directly in order to include your action in this framework.

You have seen the choice to abandon a number of major projects. This is not a budgetary decision, but a political one. It stems from the conviction that the action of our ministry can no longer be summed up in a perpetual multiplication of the supply of cultural facilities. This offer is very rich today, as you all know, and you can see in your departments how the vast majority of local and regional authorities have invested the field of culture and put many achievements in this field to their credit. This must be taken into account and the risk of supply saturation which threatens certain territories, sometimes giving rise to harmful phenomena of competition between public institutions.

But we also know that these major projects had a unifying role. Their success, very real in the vast majority of cases, attests to the ability of the agents of the Ministry of Culture and Communication to mobilize to complete complex projects. So we have to invent, for our department, a new model, just as capable of gathering energy, but around different objectives. These objectives are those which justified the creation of this ministry and which constitute its raison d'être: democratization, arts and cultural education, and the dissemination of works throughout the territory.

You will immediately see how important your missions are to achieving these objectives. Architecture and built heritage are the most democratic forms of culture because they are at the heart of public space and accessible to all. Preserving the balance of ancient buildings, ensuring the aesthetic quality of architectural creation, means giving everyone the right to enjoy a harmonious environment. It is to make possible, in the most concrete way, this contact with beauty, source of all interest for culture. It reveals to everyone the impact of time on tastes and sensibilities. By exercising your profession, you are thus helping to build this new model which must henceforth guide the action of our ministry.

The heritage bill that is being drafted reflects in our law the objectives I have just outlined. I know there is a lot of interest, a lot of expectation, and a few questions about this. Part of your day will be devoted to the presentation by the Heritage Branch of the current status of this bill, on which you can of course react. For my part, I would like to stress its major political importance for the Ministry of Culture and Communication. In fact, for years, the law applicable to our field has been evolving under the effect of legislation that is perfectly useful in its principle on environmental protection or the simplification of the law, but not primarily for the protection or enhancement of heritage. In other cases, legislation is limited to a particular sector of heritage. But all these legislative exercises lack an overall vision of our heritage law, even though it is grouped in a single code. And who, if not the Ministry of Culture and Communication, can carry out a legislative project covering all areas of heritage?

This bill will, for the first time, be an opportunity to ask the national representation the question of heritage in all its components, and to link this question to that of architecture. Here I set out the main objectives, with regard to architecture and built heritage: to include heritage and architectural quality in planning documents, to give in our national law a legal effect to the inscription of the heritage of humanity, to simplify the present juxtaposed devices of protection and to make them more accessible by clear names, better affirm, finally, the necessity of the architectural advice to the individuals. I will simply mention today that the bill will also include chapters on archaeology, archives and museums. This project is obviously not frozen at this stage, and the exchange you will have this morning with the Directorate-General for Heritage, then the more in-depth discussions that will continue in the coming weeks with a group of referees bringing together some of you will certainly allow you to explore new avenues. In any case, I hope that this bill will be a unifying element for all heritage professionals, of whom you are naturally, and, beyond that, for all those who, as an association, advocate and promote this fine cause. We will need this unity to take this text to the national representation and I hope that you can contribute to it.

But I know that this legislative evolution is not your only focus. The territorial departments of architecture and heritage have also been faced for several years with a delicate situation in terms of their workforce. I know that, in some departments, the lack of staff has a bearing on the very exercise of the tasks entrusted to you by law. You also know, on your side, the situation of extreme budgetary tension in which our country finds itself. In this context, a general solution to the difficulties you are encountering cannot be immediate, especially since I have to deal with difficulties that are sometimes just as severe in other areas of cultural administration. But this reality does not prevent better management of the current situation, with the objective of guaranteeing the stability of your staff. I will therefore defend the maintenance of a substantial level of recruitment in the body of architects and urban planners of the State, and I will also ensure, as far as possible, a geographical rebalancing of the workforce throughout the territory. The General Secretariat of the Ministry and the Directorate-General for Heritage will have to mobilize in this direction.

I would also like to raise the question of the management of members of the State Architects and Urban Planners Corps in the Ministry of Culture and Communication. I am aware of the fact that your compensation system is less favourable than that of your colleagues in the Ministry of Ecology. I know that, despite your passion for culture, this situation has led some of you to leave the department. This situation is naturally worrying. An inter-ministerial general inspection mission has recently been set up to assess the various aspects of the situation of the State architects and urban planners, whatever their assignment. Pending the outcome of this mission, an inspector general of the heritage inspection, belonging to the body of architects and urban planners of the State, will now devote himself to a specific monitoring of the situation of your body, in particular with regard to future statutory developments. On the functional level, I hope that the new listing of the positions of architects and urban planners of the State will take into account the particular constraints of the heads of territorial services of architecture and heritage. In a word, the architects and urban planners of the State assigned to the Ministry of Culture and Communication should be able to benefit from a human resources management policy that takes into account their interests. The department’s headquarters will be mobilized in this direction.

Ladies and gentlemen, I did not want to ignore the difficulties you are facing. But my dearest wish is that these difficulties do not alter the legitimate pride you feel in carrying out your missions. For me, and for the Ministry of Culture and Communication, these missions are essential. But beyond that, your action benefits society as a whole.

This action must be constantly explained, and you all know that the weapons given to you by the law cannot and must not be dissociated from the indispensable exercise of conviction towards elected officials and individuals. In the vast majority of cases, your decisions are understood and accepted because they are reasonable and well-founded. I am convinced that by giving full space to dialogue and explaining your positions, you are advancing the causes of architectural quality and heritage protection every day. These causes are progressing, I am convinced, because they are the condition for the future harmony of our living environment. But they do require a constant commitment. I know I can count on yours, count on mine, by your side.

Thank you.