A Monochromatic Vision
Pierre-Alain Bouchetard & Etienne Barre
The project is a proposal for the reorganization of the sport center in Issy-les-Moulineaux, France. Issy is a city just outside Paris, in the southwestern suburb. We chose Issy’s sport complex as a field of project because we saw it as a site with problems but a lot of potential if those problems could be resolve. It is indeed well situated in the city, close to public transports and it hosts many events. Its link with the urban space is however very bad making the place a disconnected island in the city. Our work was then to reesatblish the connexion with the urban environnement. By reorganizing the site, we also made the sport complex less space-consuming, allowing us to make place for social housing and local activities. We lifted up the running track so that people could acces the field in the center anytime and so that the field could be used as an urban park, open to the public, when there is no game going on. The track also connect other sport fields on top of the gyms, accessible through the inside of the buildings. This project was finally an opportunity to think about sport facilities in an another way, a way that averybody can benefit from it and that the sport complexe can become an urban center for athletes and people at the same time.
Who influences you graphically ?
I’d say no one and every one. We have no graphical style in general. We are always looking for new sorts of representation and trying to reinterpret them. The way we work is not about following a trend but more about experiencing different techniques for the effect they create. In the end, we use the graphical style we think is best for us to show what we want to. For this project, we tried different options, with and without colours, and we ended with a monochromatic representation obviously influenced by the italian movement La Tendenza and Franco Purini’s drawings in particular.
What is the effect and purpose of monochromatic images ?
One thing is that our final panels for the diploma also featured very technical documents. Black and white images were then a way to be graphically more consistent through the whole presentation.
More specifically, our aim in this way of representing our project was to emphasise the architectural choices we made rather than showing materials. Our proposal is indeed about solving the site on an urban scale, detailing plans so that everything works and giving structural ideas of how things can be built. Defining materials is a next step that we didn’t get enough into, to be able to represent it persuasively. In that sense we chose monochromatic images to give a general atmoshpere of the project and to insist on architectural and structural ideas.
We think that colour would have turned the attention away from what is important in the project. Black and white images are a wonderful means as they allow for a good sense of space without restraining people’s imagination. We believe in people’s ability to be even more creative than we are and to imagine what the project could be in real life without giving them every detail.
One more reason behind this choice is that black and white representation often refers to the past, whether it is through photography or cinema for instance.
The last thing is that, even if it has been used a million times in all fields of art, monochromatic is timeless compared to other graphical styles that become quickly out of fashion and we will have the same pleasure looking at them in a few years from now.
To what extent do you think that the use of colour would have helped you focus attention on sceptic elements whithin drawings ?
I think it would have led us to a deeper reflection on materials and therefore to a really detailed represention. Sadly the time was quite short to get this far on the whole project. It was indeed only four months to solve all the questions raised by this very singular site and we managed to make this proposal on 5ha (12.4 acres) designing every part of it: the sport centre, a parking lot and 300 flats. We are aware that the project is not at its final stage and that the use of colour would highlight some questions about which materials we could have used and how we could have assembled everything. Knowing that we wouldn’t be able to be perfectly accurate and relevant on these issues we chose not to use colour. We prefered giving a global atmosphere of the project and showing clearly the structural orientations than focusing attention on specific elements.
How may the use of monochromatic images be a limit when wanting to convey the very energetic and cheerful atmoshphere of a sport center ?
The absence of colour is of course what you could call a brake to representing such a lively and eventful place espacially when nature is a centre part if the project. On the other hand the monochromatic mode gives more light and contrast to the image when colour makes everything flatter. Then again it is just a choice on how you want people to perceive your project and on what you want them to focus on. Here we wanted to insist on structural elements and let people imagination do the rest. I would say that it even allows people to make their own idea of what it could be and how enjoyable the space could be without forcing them to follow our view.
You talk about the field as an urban park, however this use is only explored through one visual. How could a greater emphasis on this idea of multitude of activities and community reinforce your proposal?
I have to admit that we didn’t really insist on this idea on the images but still it was not made randomly. Lifting the running track allows to use the field as an urban park in an area that lacks public gardens but where there is a great density of sport facilities. It also allows to host many activities underneath and to use the space more intensively in this very dense area. This idea was not made gratuitously as a symbolic gesture but came during the process as an answer to the site, its program and its relation with the urban environment.
Etienne and Pierre-Alain are two French architects who graduated at the Architecture School of Paris La Villette in July 2015. Along with their architectural schooling, they also studied civil engineering at the ESTP (Ecole Spéciale des Travaux Publics in Paris) where they met in 2010. After a year, they started making projects together, mentored by great architects and renowned builders such as Vincen Cornu and Bruno Gaudin.
They went separate ways for a time when Pierre went for an exchange program in Norway, whilst Etienne did his in Brazil. Broadened by two very different experiences, they joined again for their diploma project dealing with Issy’s sport Centre. They now work both at Dietmar Feichtinger Architects where they continue to share experience.