Mr President of the Republic,                                                                                       

Your Excellency the Commissioner,

Ladies and gentlemen parliamentarians,

Madam President of the Île-de-France region,

The Mayor of Versailles and Commissioner General of the Biennale,

Ladies and gentlemen elected,

Ladies and gentlemen architects and landscapers,                                                                           

Ladies and gentlemen,

                                             

I want to tell you how happy I am to be with you.

With you, Mr President of the Republic, dear Nicolas Sarkozy, for whom I have esteem and respect.

With you, Madam President of the Region, dear Valérie Pécresse, you are a daily partner in Île-de-France.

With you, Mr. Mayor, dear François de Mazières, you are a man of culture, whom I know well.

With you, I am happy to see this 1era Biennial of architecture and landscape of Ile-de-France.

Happy to be able to reaffirm that we need architects, landscapers, urban planners, to meet the great challenges of our century; to meet the great challenges of our time.

I had already had the opportunity to say so, during the EUROPAN forum and, before, when the Grand Prix national d'architecture was awarded to Pierre-Louis Faloci.

When I was talking about these “big challenges”, I was thinking of the ecological, energy, climate challenge. The migration and demographic challenge. To the challenge of hyper-densification and suffocation of cities. To the challenge of the revitalization of towns, of the requalification of suburbs. The challenge of social inclusion, housing, the fight against isolation. The digital challenge.

To this already plethora list, I was far from imagining that we would have to add the challenge of safeguarding and rebuilding one of our most emblematic monuments.

Ladies and gentlemen architects:                                                                                   

It has not escaped you that, for nearly three weeks, it is on this challenge that you are expected.

The Fire of Our Lady taught us – or, to those who were already aware of it – that everyone in this country has an opinion about architecture.

Everyone.                                                                                                         

Some will tell me that we are in France, and that everyone has an opinion on everything. They would not be wrong: this is precisely the «art of being French» of which the President of the Republic speaks.

Some will object that this is not new: as soon as it comes to our history, our monuments, our past, the French always know how to be viscerally attached.

I think we can celebrate that.

That we can take some pride in it.

Because there is only France to sling on such a subject.

Because only the French feel so concerned about art, to debate it with such fervour.                     

I want to tell them, I want to tell you:

Yes, we will restore Notre-Dame de Paris.

But, in this task that awaits us, let us not confuse speed and precipitation.

To allow creativity to express itself, we will launch in the coming weeks a competition of architects for the reconstruction of the arrow.

The impetus for creativity, I am convinced, will go beyond the simple competition and will affect, beyond architects, all those who want to contribute their ideas.

Then we’ll see which is the best option: either restore the same – and we have everything to do it; or create something new – and that’s what Viollet-le-Duc did in her time.

But we won’t rush.                                                                                                                               

We will respect Our Lady’s story.  

We will be able to take into account the opinions of heritage professionals: the architects of course, and the chief architects of historic monuments, whose extraordinary mobilization I have seen on the ground in recent weeks, but also the Conservatives, historians, academics, and all those who work to maintain, preserve and restore our monuments.

We’ll listen to them.                                                                                             

We can trust them.

But I didn’t come to talk to you this morning about Notre Dame.

However, I believe that the reactions to this tragedy speak volumes of the relationship between men and architecture.

An emotional, intimate, personal relationship.                                                                                                                       

After all, it is natural: the works of architects and landscapers envelop us, surround us at every moment; «we cannot escape them»[1].

And it may be because they are everywhere, and because some have been there for so long, that we think they will be there forever.

From their ubiquity, from their longevity, we deduce their eternity.

But what we build is not necessarily eternal.

Not our equipment, not our buildings, not our monuments.

If this observation invites us to humility, it must not prevent us from building for the long term.

In fact, the opposite is true.

As Paul Valéry, whose "Eupalinos ou l'architecte" you already quoted, writes, Mr. President of the Republic, at the Cité de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine:

« Man’s creations are made, either in view of his body, and this is the principle that is called utility, or in view of his soul, and this is what he seeks under the name of beauty.

But ... he who constructs or creates, dealing with the rest of the world and the movement of nature, which perpetually tend to dissolve, corrupt, or overthrow what he does; he must recognize a third principle, which he tries to communicate to his works, and which expresses the resistance he wants them to oppose to their destiny to perish.

He therefore seeks solidity or duration. »

Utility, beauty, duration.

Utilitas, venustas, firmitas This is what the Roman architect Vitruvius theorized two millennia ago in his treatise «De Architectura».

These are the compasses that guide you, architects and landscape designers.

These are the demands you are making.                                                                                                   

These are the gifts you’re giving us.

These three principles have not always been balanced.

Sometimes we could think them without worrying about the real.

There have been mistakes in the past: it is not a question of denying them or letting them suffocate us.

From these mistakes, I think we have learned a lot.

On our aspirations, our deepest desires; on the future we want to build; on the city we want to build.

The city of tomorrow must be a human city.

A city for the human.

The city of tomorrow must allow society to live and organize.

It has to make life easier, not more complex. I don’t think we need more complexity.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that architecture is changing the world.

Because it conditions our interactions, our movements, our relationship to space and to others. 

It determines our fates.

It can facilitate meetings as well as prevent them.

It can allow individuals to realize themselves, but it can also leave them unfinished, ' like a letter that we started and crumpled up right after writing the date »[2].

It is a heavy responsibility for all those who have made it their profession.

The responsibility to be particularly attentive to reality, to needs, to uses, to landscapes; attentive to the way people live, and to the way they will live tomorrow.

The city of tomorrow is a city where the future must be possible.

A city that should let us see a future.

A sustainable city.

A city that lives, that knows how to adapt, evolve and build with its time.

It is a paradigm shift; we will have to carry it together.

Getting there is not an option; it is an obligation.

This is an emergency, and it is our duty to the next generations.

In ten years, 60% of the world’s population will live in cities.

The urban population explosion will require building the equivalent of the Amsterdam metropolis every two weeks.

It is obvious that we need to change the model of society, change our lifestyles, change the way we think about our cities.

But changing does not mean demolishing and rebuilding.

Change is not a clean slate.

Like urban renewal, it is not a clean slate for the architecture of the century before us.

For the present, in order to exist, does not need to oppose everything that preceded it.

Breaking is not always necessary.

Epochs can dialogue; find a harmony, a coherence that connects them.

Yes: today’s architecture can be built from yesterday’s.

It is possible to hatch new that respects the old. To build, without destroying. To perfect, without undoing. To reinvent, without distorting.

For our heritage is not finished, or frozen for eternity.

It is a living heritage. It regenerates and transforms itself. It knows how to renew itself. It is made up of additions and juxtapositions.

It is not only what we receive, but also what we leave.

It is not only what was there before us; it is also what will remain after us.

It is not only our link to yesterday; it is also what connects us to tomorrow.

It’s not just conservation; it’s also innovation, creation.

So let’s transform the building! Rehabilitate! Reinvest!

Let us restore! Let us enhance! And, if necessary, let us expand!

Let us adapt to new uses, new expectations, new ways of life!

Let’s limit the artificialization of soils: let’s reuse the existing building; let’s modernize it, rather than develop new subdivisions!

Encourage contemporary architectural creation at the heart of protected heritage ensembles!

Let’s revitalize trade, and create virtuous dynamics – like these villages, where a shopkeeper, by deciding to renovate his storefront, has encouraged others to do the same.

Let’s reconquer the public space, make it more easily accessible, and improve the image of cities!

Let’s reinvent these disused places, which abound everywhere in France!

Let us offer them a new use, let us install new services, new cultural and artistic offers!

We can do it; we have done it in the past.

Until the 1950s, our cities were built, remodelled, destroyed, rebuilt and innovated.

They have stratified, reusing already inhabited spaces; recycling them, increasing them.

It was an economic issue because at that time, materials were expensive to extract and transport.

Since then, this know-how seems forgotten.

It is urgent to remember.

To reconnect with this ancestral knowledge of adaptation of existing buildings.

The label «remarkable contemporary architecture», extension of the label «heritage of XXe century”, which we are celebrating this year, is a great tool to take a fresh look at this architecture inhabited by the vast majority of our fellow citizens.

The labeled works constitute laboratories for the State, for owners and communities, in order to develop methods for intervening on the recent architecture.

This need for renovation is a matter of research and innovation.

We can act.

So many neighbourhoods need to be reinvested.

I’m thinking of city cores – I’ll come back to that…

I think of wastelands, which were perceived as obstacles until a few years ago, and are now seen as reservoirs of innovation; as opportunities to develop and build in already dense areas…

I am thinking of the third-places that can settle there; those third-places that make our heritage the place of manufacture of the social and solidarity economy, may they be ephemeral like "The great neighbors"

I am thinking of all the places that Patrick Bouchain revitalizes thanks to “Proof by 7”…

I am thinking of the big projects, which we must remodel in depth and continue to open up. I am thinking of garden cities and social housing projects, the quality of which is often invaluable in the history of a city, a neighbourhood, a territory. And each envisaged destruction must have been weighed and concerted. For the time has come to transform the existing.

That, Mr President of the Republic, was the meaning of your remarks on Emile Aillaud’s Les Courtillières. You were then followed by the territorial stakeholders.

But today, other sets of Quilt quality are in danger of being destroyed or denatured. And we must be careful not to let the traces of the vanguards of our contemporaries go to waste.

That is why I am committed, with the regional services of the Ministry of Culture, to campaigns to label the works of the national grand prix of architecture. I want their creations, as well as those of their peers of great talents, to be valued, to live, so that the next generations can know them, admire them, appropriate them, with respect and consideration.

If Versailles, dear François de Mazières, is less famous for its large ensembles than for its castle, it is nevertheless emblematic of these cities with lively architecture.

The estate of Versailles, dear Catherine Pégard, is a magnificent example of this tradition of stratification.

It is the result of the intervention of the greatest architects of past centuries, but also of present centuries: Jean-Michel Wilmotte, Elizabeth de Portzamparc, Patrick Bouchain – and I forget some.

Versailles is a permanent restoration effort, in the castle and in the park, led by architects with very high technical heritage, thanks to which they were able to heal the pangs of the storm of 1999.

And Versailles is still evolving: with the intervention of Dominique Perrault for the creation, within a historical monument, of new spaces of reception of the public.

In perpetual evolution, Versailles is a witness to the innovations of its time, notably ecological: I think of the king’s vegetable garden, the hamlet of the Queen…

More broadly, dear François, it is a city that does not allow itself to be locked in its past.

A philosopher named Günther Anders said: It is not enough to change the world… We must also interpret this change so that we can change it in turn. »

When he was writing these few words, coming out of World War II, I doubt he was thinking about the ecological transition.

Yet when we read it, it seems that is what he is talking about.

Changing change is our responsibility to the planet.

Architecture can help us.                                                                  

Change can help us to tame it, to tame it; to conquer it, to take only the best of it.

This is your daily life: it is dealing with the constraints of reality.

And the real constraint that is being imposed on us today is nothing less than the threat of our planet becoming extinct.

Then we need you, your commitments.

Architects, landscapers, you designing the space.

We need you to protect our environment. On the subject, you are pioneers, committed: ecology, it is you who have brought it in the Great Debate of Culture; ecology, it is you who have put it at the heart of a digital resource center gathering good practices, on the site of the Order of Architects.

We need you to change the energy model. To reduce carbon energy sources. To combat energy poverty. To renovate thermally. To requalify existing housing and workplaces, in particular. To achieve energy and environmental efficiency goals in the building sector.

We need you to promote eco-construction, eco-rehabilitation, and bio-based industries. And I know the commitment of architects in this area, especially in Île-de-France, and I want to salute him; and I also know the commitment of the Regional National Parks in this direction.

We need you to be at the forefront of this fight.

We owe it to future generations: architecture now can only be sustainable.

The city of tomorrow is also a city where emancipation, escape must be possible.

It must be a place of culture.

We can make every city a place of culture – not just the big cities.

We can, and we must.

Because a land strategy is more than a development project.

Because the attractiveness of a territory also depends – and I would even say that it depends first – on its cultural richness.

Because cultural wealth is simply wealth. 

It is a lever for economic development and tourist attraction.

It is a lever for revitalization and cohesion.

We have to show the projects that are emerging every day from the territories.

Show how cities as varied as Saint-Etienne, Nantes, Lyon, Bordeaux, Grenoble, Le Havre or Dinan, have seized their heritage to revitalize their territory and strengthen this cohesion.

Heritage is a way to give – or give back – a territory’s identity.

A way to bring people together, to help them reclaim their environment.

To bring them together, to strengthen their sense of belonging.

To make them proud.

This is why the Ministry of Culture is so involved in the revitalization of urban centres, from the Centres-Bourgs call for expressions of interest launched in 2014, to the experimentation of the workshops of the «heritage cities» territories, launched in 2017, until the Action Coeur de Ville plan, launched last year.

Supporting these initiatives means supporting territorial projects; it means supporting cultural projects.

I want to believe that the two are inseparable.

To make each city a place of culture, this means upgrading our heritage: I have already mentioned it.

It also means renewing the cultural offer of our territories.

We will accelerate the deployment throughout France of Micro-Funds, true digital museums and popular spaces of cultural practices.

We will also experiment with setting up “creative cultural districts” in cities participating in the “Action cœur de ville” programme.

We will make our libraries and media libraries cultural public service houses. They will open more, and they will offer more.

Making each city a place of culture means promoting the “built culture”: the art of building, which is part of our cultural identity.

It is this ability to develop the space harmoniously, in a historical continuity, by articulating the landscape, public spaces and buildings; by anchoring them in territories; by taking into account local culture and practices; and never losing sight of the quality of life.

That is why France will sign the DAVOS declaration, which reminds us of the importance of architecture as a «built culture» in Western Europe.       

 

Ladies and gentlemen architects,

Ladies and gentlemen landscapers,

The city of tomorrow, you will not be alone in building it.

We’ll build it together.

With developers, investors, developers, contractors, specialized operators, project developers.

With the building contractors.

With a public authority that can assert choices over a long period of time; that will strive to preserve the public interest; and that will organize, encourage and further facilitate public-private partnerships.

With the Ministry of Culture, its public establishments, its professionals and its decentralized services: The architects of the buildings of France, who accompany the territorial actors on a daily basis, within the departmental units of architecture and heritage;

In this regard, I salute the innovation led by the DRAC Île-de-France, which set up the first metropolitan architecture and heritage service in January 2019. This brings together all the departmental units of architecture, and is now a centre of competence at the scale of the metropolis of Greater Paris, articulating thematic and territorial poles in an exemplary way.

The architectural advisors, who make the link between the architecture networks and support their actions, in the regional cultural affairs directorates;

And the architects and landscapers councils of the State, real «smugglers» between the decentralized departments of the various ministries and the local authorities, to defend the architectural, heritage, landscape and urban stakes;

The City of Architecture and Heritage, which promotes architecture, its history, its successes and its experiments and new generations;

With the networks of architecture, which are indispensable relays for architecture in France and in the world:

- houses of architecture,

- Arc en rêve,

- the AFEX,

- and the CAUE.

With higher education institutions of architecture;

With the local authorities and elected officials, whose deep attachment to architecture and architects I know from experience;

I would like to take this opportunity to salute the major associations of elected officials:

- the FNCAUE;

- “Remarkable sites and cities”;

- “Small character cities”;

- the federation of regional natural parks, which I know is very committed to eco-construction and eco-rehabilitation.

Obviously, with professionals in architecture and landscape;

But also with urban planners, environmentalists, agronomists, engineers, sociologists…and the list goes on.

For it is only from the synthesis of constraints and potentials that the right project is born.

It is from this co-construction, this co-instruction of projects, from the beginning, upstream; it is from this collective intelligence that the city of tomorrow will be born.

This collective intelligence, the new production mechanisms of the city have trusted him; they have allowed him to express himself.

These are calls for projects, calls for expressions of interest, or “Reinvent” competitions.

The latter, who carry within them a strong injunction of innovation, have brought out a new way of manufacturing the city.

They formed new alliances; they changed the rules of the game.

The result is more multidisciplinary teams than before, with more public/private synergies, more involvement of civil society and associations.

That’s a good thing.

Nevertheless, and because architecture is of public interest – whether linked to a private or public project management – I want to modernize the Interministerial Mission for the Quality of Public Buildings.

Before, it handled 500 competitions a year; today, due to the emergence of hybrid modes of production in the city, it does not treat enough.

If I want to modernize it, it is so that it covers all public and private project management; so that it helps elected officials to produce architectural quality in all sectors of construction, and to guide them in the new manufacturing processes of the city.

These new modes of production do not call into question the role of the architect.                                                           

We have public policies in urban planning, housing, ecology – and each is legitimate in its own domain.

But we need a vision that combines all these perspectives.

The architect has this overall vision.

This overall vision will be given by the architect.

The State must strengthen it as a cardinal element of our public policies.

The mission «values of architecture», the report of which will be given to me in July, is part of this desire.

The city of tomorrow, we will build it together: this Biennale is the proof.

It is an opportunity to unite, to associate, to federate.

The occasion to celebrate the anniversary of Greater Paris, which you launched, Mr President of the Republic, 10 years ago, almost to the day, at the CAPA. We know what we owe you.

The opportunity to foster interaction between the world of architecture, landscape, heritage, citizens, communities and local elected officials.

The opportunity to put architecture in the public square, to give back to everyone the ability to act on their living environment.

Together, think, think, and already co-build the city of tomorrow.

Thank you for this initiative, Madam Chair, dear Valérie.

Thank you to everyone who made it possible:

Thank you, Mayor and Commissioner General, dear François de Mazières;

Thank you to the École nationale supérieure d'architecture de Versailles, Mr Director, dear Jean-Christophe Quinton;

Thank you to the Palace of Versailles, Madam President, dear Catherine Pégard;

Thank you to the Ecole nationale supérieure de paysage, Director, dear Vincent Piveteau;

Thanks to the curators: Elisabeth Maisonnier, Djamel Klouche, Alexandre Chemetoff, and Nicolas Gilsoul, and thanks to the group 2030.

And thank you to all the professionals present, in this Versailles with living architecture, in this Île-de-France which is a reservoir of opportunities and a land of culture.

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a book by Italo Calvino which he himself describes as a ' love poem to the cities ».

Its title is The Invisible Cities, and yet the descriptions it contains, similar to portraits, are so precise, so clear, that one would believe these very real cities.

Refuting the distinction between happy cities and unhappy cities, Calvino says that it is not between these two categories that it makes sense to share cities, but between them:

Those who continue, over the years, to give shape to desires;

And those where desires come to erase the city, or to be erased by it. »

We must not be satisfied with cities falling into the second category.

We must not be satisfied with cities that erase desires, possibilities, futures.

We must make our cities places where the impossible can happen.

I’m not saying it’s an easy task.

But that’s the one you have to do.

This is the mission of architects, landscapers, and all those who accompany them.

It is the mission of these creators that you are; of these builders, of these makers of beauty.

In this mission, the ministry of culture will always be at your side.

 

[1] Paul VALERY, ' Eupalinos or the architect »

[2] KOLTÈS, ' In the solitude of the cotton fields »