Dear Emmanuelle Wargon, Deputy Minister of Housing,
Madam President of the City of Architecture and Heritage, dear Catherine Chevillot,
Dear Christine Leconte,
Dear Pablo Katz, President of the Academy of Architecture,
Dear Joël Baud-Grasset, President of the National Federation of Architectural, Urban and Environmental Councils,
Madam President of the Network of Houses of Architecture, dear Anne-Sophie Kehr,
Dear Principals and Directors of the National Institutes of Architecture,
Dear Pierre-René Lemas,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased to see you again in the magnificent setting of this City of Architecture and Heritage to officially launch these National Days of Architecture.
For three days, around the theme of «living together», this event will be an opportunity to better understand the architecture and the role of the architect.
I want to thank Emmanuelle Wargon very much for her words. Our common presence today is a strong symbol that there is no housing policy worthy of the name without an architecture policy. And conversely: the policy of architecture, carried out by the Ministry of Culture, makes sense only if it is put, concretely, at the service of the inhabitants of this country, to improve the framework of their daily life.
I would like to begin by sharing with you this simple conviction: we have never needed architecture and architects more than today. The health crisis we have just been through – and which is unfortunately not yet completely behind us – has made clear developments that it has not created, but has accelerated. The demand for respect for the environment, for sustainable development, has become the top priority. At the same time, the search for a better quality of life, which includes more space, became more urgent after the experience of confinement. Architecture is at the crossroads of these concerns.
I’m almost tempted to say that the main political problem we face today is “housing”. That is why, dear Emmanuelle Wargon, I feel particularly sympathetic to the title of the program you are wearing: “Inhabiting the France of tomorrow”. How (better) to live in France? This is the question:
- How can we design living spaces that are more comfortable, more practical, but also more beautiful? With the idea that the place where we live can/should also be the place where, from time to time, we work?
- How can we live more «in» and «with» nature?
- How, also, can we reancrease into the history of the places where we live, giving back to our existence a certain temporal depth?
- Finally, how can we emerge from our isolation, from a form of individualism, to imagine places where we are more together?
Aspiration for a better quality of life; need to reancrease in space and time and to reconnect with others: to all these new concerns, architecture provides answers.
As I travelled around France for the past year, I was impressed to see how much the architects had anticipated these changes and reviewed their ways of seeing and doing things. A new paradigm of architecture is emerging, fully in line with the expectations of society, opening perspectives, proposing solutions. The recent awarding of the Pritzker Prize to Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal, champions of the «economy of means», is a striking manifestation of this and a sign that French architecture is on the right track.
What we see emerging at the present time, in fact, is first of all the concern for an architecture more economical in materials, more respectful of the environment. An architecture that, therefore, systematically favours the renovation and rehabilitation of the existing, avoiding as much as possible the destruction-reconstruction operations that have long been the norm. The ecological requirements here join the respect that we owe to the heritage and the need, which I mentioned earlier to inscribe our lives in the long time. Every time a building is destroyed, it is a piece of the past from which we cut ourselves. Think, for example, of the famous garden city of the Butte rouge in Châtenay-Malabry: its preservation is both an environmental necessity and a heritage imperative. A tribute to the history of worker utopias that have, among many other things, made our country what it is.
Ladies and gentlemen, 70% of our built environment was built after 1946. It’s huge. As you well know, many of these modern buildings – which were not always designed for repair – are becoming obsolete. The challenge we face collectively is to achieve the maximum possible new life for them. To invent for them new uses, by means of an intelligent adaptation, exploiting the resources of the building. The stakes are considerable. This is a question of civilization. Our future will not be the same, depending on whether we are up to this challenge.
There is no question of keeping everything. I can see the dangers of this very contemporary tendency to make everything heritage, to refuse any form of forgetting: it is, in the end, akin to that fear of the future whose ravages we see. Architects, who are creators, who are always thinking more about tomorrow than yesterday, must preserve it. But not at the cost of a clean slate, not at the cost of wasting our resources.
In this considerable project, I know that I can count on each of you, especially the National Council of the Order of Architects, dear Christine Leconte, with whom we work hand in hand.
This promotion of a more sober architecture requires a collective effort of foresight, already engaged through the research program «Architecture of the 20th century, subject to project for the sustainable city of the 21st century», launched in 2016. This program ends this year, and has been marked by the intense mobilization of many architectural research laboratories, which I would like to thank.
This effort continues, with this morning, for example, the opening of the first National Assizes of the National Higher Schools of Architecture, on the theme «trans-formation: the intervention of the architect on the existing». I am pleased to see that students, researchers, professionals and local communities are working together to think about the role of the rehabilitation of buildings in the revitalization of our territories. The collaborations they have already put in place, in the context of the “Action cœur de ville” plan in particular, are very promising.
The evolution of architecture obviously implies that of the profession of the architect, whose technical knowledge evolves and is enriched, whether in the use of bio-sourced materials, or the practice of re-employment. Its intervention is changing in nature, and it is increasingly called upon to work upstream of projects, in close contact with residents and communities, to take their practices and needs into account.
It is also important that the role of the architect should be recognized in areas where he did not previously have a place. I am thinking in particular of the prescription of works during thermal renovations: because the fight against the energetic strainers cannot be done without taking into account the heritage dimension, and the quality of the built. We cannot oppose the protection of the environment and the preservation of heritage: in my view, the two objectives are inseparable.
Our teaching of architecture must respond to these new dynamics. That is why it is at the center of all our attentions.
I have already had the opportunity, at the ENSA in Nancy in particular, to detail our action in favour of the quality of student life and the professional integration of our young graduates, which also concerns higher education in architecture.
More specifically, I would like to raise with you the question of the evolution of teaching in the ENSA. Following the mobilization in schools in early 2020, a first report of the General Inspection of Cultural Affairs was presented to me, which drew lessons from the implementation of the 2018 reform. On the basis of its conclusions, we have drawn up an action plan which will enable the expected development of academic and applied research, while obtaining new resources: 2.5 million new operating appropriations have been allocated, while 4 million additional investments will allow us to support the real estate projects of ENSA Toulouse and ENSA Marseille, in addition to the 60 million credits already obtained under the recovery plan.
At the same time, I commissioned a second report on the teaching and training conditions, which I expect to be delivered by the end of the year.
We will also install, on November 16, in this same place, the Observatory of the Economy of Architecture.
This structure, advocated by the «Values of Architecture» report, is thus born after one year of prefiguration. It will make it possible to adapt the training provided in the ENSA to the reality of the architecture labour market, while at the same time providing us with precise data and knowledge on this sector, which we now lack, to better support it – and to draw all the consequences of the health crisis, which has hit the profession hard.
This observatory will be made up of a steering committee, bringing together stakeholders in the sector and partner ministries, as well as a scientific committee and a monitoring committee. Thematic committees will investigate the priority topics defined by the policy committee, three of which have already been identified:
- The study of the economic structuring of architectural enterprises.
- Architecture training and the adaptation of the training provided.
- And finally, export support.
On this last point, the architecture sector can count for eighteen months on the reactivation of the Interministerial Committee of Architecture to Export (COMAREX). This structure, combining the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, ensures the promotion of our exceptional know-how internationally.
More broadly, from an economic point of view, architecture is fully integrated into the cultural and creative industries acceleration strategy that I have been using since I took office. This dynamic is reflected, among other things, in financial actions to strengthen the solidity and competitiveness of companies and support their digital transition.
At the beginning of September, the caisse des dépôts et consignations launched calls for expressions of interest on the “digitization of heritage and architecture” or “green alternatives”, to which I encourage you to respond.
Finally, I would like to mention our commitment to the European initiative of the New European Bauhaus.
Announced by the President of the European Commission last January, this programme on living spaces and architecture is structured around three requirements that are in line with the priorities I mentioned earlier: sustainability, aesthetics and inclusion.
In the course of our work, we have seen a European consensus on the urgent need to put the user and his well-being back at the heart of the development of living spaces. This dynamic will amplify our own public architecture policies, which focus on renewing the construction processes around the central figure of the architect, whose missions of general interest must be reaffirmed.
But all this may still seem a bit theoretical.
Following the promulgation of the ELAN law, and the questions and concerns it has raised in the world of architecture, some may have wished that the legislator, the regulatory power, put the work back on the job. While some regulatory changes may be necessary, this is not the first course of action. The right answer is action. By doing so, we will be able to convince people of the importance of architecture in the construction chain, of its real usefulness, in serving the community.
That is why, with Emmanuelle Wargon, we decided to follow the main recommendation of the excellent report that Pierre-René Lemas presented to us last February, by launching a major experiment on the quality of social housing. We are launching the “Committed to Quality Housing of Tomorrow” program today.
This call for expressions of interest will select 100 projects, which will receive a seal of excellence. Twenty of them will receive specific support within an incubator.
One of the innovations of this program is, as Pierre-René Lemas said, its ability to question the entire housing production chain.
The initiatives distinguished by the seal of excellence will naturally be valued by the Cité de l'architecture et du patrimoine, our main operator. I would like to thank its director, dear Catherine Chevillot, and its teams for their continued investment in our architecture, as well as for their welcome this afternoon.
A word, before concluding, of the National Days of Architecture themselves. More than a thousand events are organized throughout France by the councils of architecture, urban planning and the environment, the houses of architecture, the Cities and countries of art and history, the national colleges of architecture, and many professionals willing to present their know-how.
This admirable mobilization, of which I would like to thank all the actors, allows all the public to go and meet the architects and to discover, often close to home, their remarkable achievements.
I am delighted to see the “Lift your eyes” programme extended this year in partnership with the Ministry of National Education. The students, from kindergarten to grade 12, will once again go to meet our heritage sites, to learn to read architecture, decipher the landscape, decipher their environment.
These days will give everyone the opportunity to take stock of the formidable pool of skills that architecture represents in our country, a combination of cultural vision and constantly renewed technical knowledge, which accompanies and gives substance to the evolution of our society.
All that remains for me now, dear Emmanuelle Wargon, is to invite you to unveil together the seal of excellence of this beautiful program. These projects will serve as an example for the transformation of our architecture. They will inspire new practices, in the service of a housing more respectful of the environment and in line with the new requirements of our fellow citizens.
I am also pleased to congratulate, in your company, the next generation of the profession: the young architects and landscape architects distinguished in the framework of the AJAP, as well as the winners of the young planners' award.
Long live the National Days of Architecture and long live architecture!