Dear Paolo Barrata, President of the Venice Biennale
Dear Xavier Darcos, President of the Institut Français
Dear Alain Le Roy, Ambassador of France to Italy
Dear Rem Koolhaas, General Commissioner of the 14th Venice International Biennial of Architecture
Dear Vincent Berjot, Director General of Heritage
Dear Jean-Louis Cohen, Commissioner of the French Pavilion
Dear Guy Amsellem, President of the Cité de l'architecture et du patrimoine
Dear everyone,
Rem Koolhaas has chosen to call the biennial 2014 "Fundamentals" to emphasize what architecture is all about, to highlight what it lacks in fashion, anecdotal and accessory. in a free gesture, to register on the contrary in the long term and to project oneself towards the future.
But I would like to divert a little the title of this biennial, and I hope that Rem Koolhaas will forgive me, to say first that architecture is FUNDAMENTAL.
Indeed, it is inscribed at the heart of societies and their culture, it is a lasting testimony of civilizations, of their ability to fit into a territory and to shape it to transcend it.
France fully recognized this by declaring in the preamble to the 1977 act that “architecture is an expression of culture”.
Architecture is not simply a technique, it is not simply a gesture, it is part of the “respublica” and the proper functioning of society.
In fact, architects have a major responsibility to translate into concrete achievements the projects, aspirations of a society and the individuals who constitute it.
Architecture can thus be successful but also face failure, it can be perceived as a promise or as a threat, to repeat the beautiful title that Jean-Louis Cohen wanted to give to the French pavilion. But in any case, architecture is the actor and the trace of the evolution of society.
That is why architecture must be fully aligned with today’s major national priorities.  
It must protect the landscapes of everyday life, threatened by urban sprawl that must be controlled and organized, but also meet the challenge of housing, which must mix quantity and quality in an inseparable way. For the whole history of mass construction, as well as that of the evolution of constituted urban tissues, shows that strictly quantitative solutions are doomed to failure if they are not accompanied by qualitative reflection from the conception.
It must make it possible to imagine the city of tomorrow, “sustainable” and “intelligent”, combining densification and humanism through the renewal of built paradigms.
Because it is indeed a collective responsibility, the Ministry of Culture and Communication, in charge of architecture, supports and supports all initiatives in its favour.
I would like to mention a few major areas of attention that are those of the ministry in charge of architecture: making public constructions the vector of quality and architectural creation.
How can we not rejoice, for example, that the Louvre-Lens of the agency Sanaa won the 2013 Grand Prize of the Silver Square?
Emblematic, this realization is in more ways than one: large cultural public equipment open to all, relocation on the territory of part of the public collections of the world’s largest museum, exemplary collaboration between the State and local authorities keen to take advantage of this exceptional project to develop the territories, formidable popular support... Architecture has played its full role here as a catalyst.
But if, of course, large-scale equipment must bear the architectural quality, it is equally fundamental in my opinion that architecture is a major contributor to the fabric of society.
That is why I wanted the Cultural Heritage Bill to introduce a new title, entitled “Architectural Quality”, in the Heritage Code.
The aim is to lay down provisions concerning, on the one hand, the knowledge, recognition, exploitation and qualitative development of existing unprotected buildings and, on the other hand, the promotion of quality architectural projects.
And for architecture to irrigate society, it is essential that we collectively pay close attention to the follow-up that will be given to the report on the reform of the calculation of surfaces, which recommends lowering the threshold to 150m² of floor area.
The architect must not be conceived as an obstacle or as a factor of delay!
The architect is the one who knows how to provide beautiful and intelligent answers to the great objectives that citizens and society set for him… so let’s trust in beauty and intelligence to meet the challenges of our societies without multiplying standards and constraints! And for that, let us have the reflex to resort to architects!
That is why I wanted to announce last night, during the AFEX award ceremony, that my ministry will be present alongside AFEX at the next international market for real estate professionals (MIPIM) in Cannes, so that our young architects, AJAP winners, can make themselves known to the clients.
This speech in favor of the use of architects, my ministry held it before the mission of information on the architectural creation, set up by the Committee on Cultural Affairs and Education chaired by Mr. Patrick Bloche, and I will repeat the same thing when it auditions me in a few days.
This is also why I wanted my Ministry to make a major effort in favour of the training provided in the schools of architecture, because it all starts with the training of those who will make the architecture of tomorrow.
Since my arrival, I have both strengthened the means given to them and engaged in a fundamental reflection on the future of these schools, their links with the university and research and their registration in the territories.
Beyond the training provided to tomorrow’s professionals in schools, it is the education in architecture of the entire population that I also wish to support.
In this regard, architectural consulting is a major element in building a quality living environment for all citizens.
I hope that CAUE’s action in architectural consulting is reaffirmed, that the role they play in this field is recognised by all stakeholders and that their expertise is perfectly aligned with that of other public experts competent in the field of architecture, and I am thinking in particular of the architects working within the decentralized departments of the Ministry of Culture, the Territorial Services of Architecture and Heritage.
These are all subjects that should be discussed without taboos in the context of the reform of territorial governance.
As I already said, the Ministry of Culture has its place in the reflection on the city of tomorrow, sustainable and intelligent.
The city of tomorrow remains to be built – it is a constant in the history of humanity - and architects are called to play an essential role in this major challenge, launched to our urban societies, while the challenges in terms of resource consumption, of natural balance and climate change are stronger than ever.
That is why the Ministry of Culture is giving its full support to the formidable and promising initiative of the Order, launched on the occasion of this biennial, the Summer Universities of Architecture, on the theme "La fabrique de la ville: le logement en question".
These universities, which will end in Marseilles next October, should allow a broad reflection on the city, housing, the essential role of architects in a society in perpetual change.
The ministry in charge of architecture will of course be at the side of the profession to accompany and feed these promising debates.
So, the modernity of architecture: promise or threat? ... to paraphrase the very relevant question posed by Jean-Louis COHEN.
This question finds a particular echo in the debate around the project of the Samaritan woman, rue de Rivoli in Paris: an architectural work, a project of urban evolution around a very circulating axis, a rich heritage fabric surrounding… It is therefore not surprising that the debate is passionate, even passionate.
It is the question of the articulation of respect for the rules – and I would like to recall that the guarantors of respect for these rules, whether they are the services of the State or of the City of Paris, have given favourable opinions on this programme - and the creation that is being proposed here.
If the rules are a guarantee of equity and ensure that cities evolve in a way that respects the past - and as Minister of Heritage I am obviously very attached to this - they must not, however, become an instrument for levelling architectural quality, which is, in the words of the 1977 law, of public interest.
Creation, because it disturbs and upsets the established order, must be explained and debated, in a regulatory context that must allow it to find its rightful place.
I believe that France is lucky enough to have rules that allow it to see modernity as a promise rather than a threat… and that we can therefore combine in France the enhancement of our exceptional heritage and the promotion of contemporary architecture.
So yes, dear Jean-Louis, I would be tempted to answer your question!
And, in any case, it is because it is necessary for us to be able to ask ourselves all these real questions together, because it is indispensable that we be able to propose together real answers, written down over time, that I am pleased to see us gathered here again, to allow architecture to express what is most fundamental in it: its ability to change the world.
Allow me to conclude by thanking our French Pavilion Commissioner, Jean-Louis Cohen, all our partners who accompany us on this great adventure of the Venice Biennale and especially the President of the French Institute, Xavier Darcos and his teams, as well as the President of the Cité de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine, Guy Amsellem, whose collaborators this year ensured the production of the pavilion.
I would also like to salute the Abvent group, which conducted a virtual tour of the French pavilion, which is now available on the French Institute and the French Ministry of Culture and Communication’s websites. It offers to all those who will not be able to move in Venice, and especially to architecture students, the possibility to wander in the pavilion.
Finally, I would like to thank Iguzzini, Saint-Gobain and the National Audiovisual Institute for their generous contribution.
Thank you all.