Design & Architecture

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Duffau & Associés
9 bis rue de la Colombette
31000 Toulouse - France
+ 33 5 61 32 64 09




© 2021


Subscribe to our newsletter



Duffau & Associés
9 bis rue de la Colombette
31000 Toulouse - France
+ 33 5 61 32 64 09




© 2021

Actes, the +5°

In the light of the new ecological awareness and sensitivities, it is appropriate to confront a great historical change that acknowledges the limits of natural resources.

The functioning of a society based only on the idea of growth and accumulation of wealth is collapsing in the face of the earth's limits. This is the result of an era that has not imagined the consequences of what occupies it today, a "well-being" through consumption. We need to rethink a sustainable method of working, a shift in profitability, and put people back at the centre of the project. A new quality of life must generate a softer and more fruitful relationship between the environment and the artefact, currently damaged by the dispersion or redundancy of numerous technical and expressive innovations stemming from post-modernism. In the light of the new ecological awareness and sensitivities, it is appropriate to confront a great historical change that acknowledges the limits of natural resources. At the beginning of the century, the modern movement had taken up the challenge of industrial production in the name of a "consumer democracy", developing an aesthetic of the serial object and its rationalised minimum according to predefined functions.  

It is a question of accepting the ecological challenge by articulating the project to the technical, cultural and natural environment. The form must follow the environment and not the function. Our daily actions and our domesticity are both the basis of our heritage and the lever for these changes.

Framing, Positive densification tool

Today, densification includes new organisations, different relationships with the neighbourhood, interior spaces increased by terraces more or less intertwined according to the programmes to multiply the possibilities.

The word frame, from the Latin quadrus (square), is the term used in both painting and architecture to designate an object made up of elements that can be assembled from different materials (wood, stone, marble, etc.) and that form a border surrounding a painting, a door or a window. The purpose of the frame in architecture is to establish transitional elements between the interior and the exterior. This transition is similar to the definition of the frame in painting, by delimiting and materialising space. By marking the limit, the frame converts the void into a thing. Historically, windows affirm a social status through the ornamentation that surrounds them, through the grandeur of their glazing. The frame, as a photographic game on the landscape, was developed by Le Corbusier but took a different form in the suburban context: the suburban dwelling does not seek a link with its neighbour's garden, but rather to create intimacy. 

Today, densification includes new organisations, different relationships with the neighbourhood, interior spaces increased by terraces more or less intertwined according to the programmes to multiply the possibilities: seeing a projected video, doing sport on one's terrace, etc. Landscapes, gardens, terraces, balconies, various activities, transgender housing restructure the link between inside and outside, with the façade, with the increased framing, which develops an active relationship between them. Thus, the ideas of the fringe, with respect to the city centre, first associated with the suburb, then with the peri-urban, could, thanks to the issues of framing, support the idea of positive densification. It is a question of organising life on the edge of the visible city or of a visible life that is constructed through the imagination, of not feeling like a 'border' but rather a place where proximity to the visible rubs shoulders with the cocoon of a family life on an interior garden, an opening. It is a way of relating to a construction of an existing that tries to densify on the scale of the family unit, on the scale of the women, men and children who occupy the space.

Creative Commons, free gestures and ornamentation

From the right to consume to the right to experiment, learn, transform, repair and share techniques in third places, to mix modes of production. 

From the right to consume to the right to experiment, learn, transform, repair and share techniques in third places, to mix modes of production. By relying on collaborative digital manufacturing places that open up the possibility of experimentation and the means to carry out projects that are difficult or even impossible to carry out outside their walls, the hyper-industrialisation, hyper-object, hyper-systems, which are the Internet network, sensors, and global infrastructures, must serve as a link to the development of specific environments, using domestic computers, mobile phones, bar codes, traffic networks, and means of transport to promote modes of production and real human relationships. The notion of pooling technological tools is perhaps not so far removed from the ideals of reappropriation by everyone of the means of production, which are not new, but which probably allow us to move on to an effective phase in order to put in place the means of a social and solidarity-based economy and to try to escape the financialization of our economic structures. The political question is therefore to find a legitimate separation between free and general knowledge and protected and paid inventions. Economic history shows that the boundary between invention and knowledge is not natural; we have to invent it with these new licences.

De-project

Not always demolishing, destroying and redoing, but knowing how to analyse in order to conserve, adapt, reduce and optimise volumes, using materials already on site, developing local know-how and supporting local employment, is also a way of perpetuating public investments and anchoring oneself in a real ecological approach.

"Building means accumulating thing after thing, marking the surface of the globe for better or for worse: by dint of adding, increasing, piling up, we have for some time now come to the point where we no longer build a house in a meadow or next to another house: but on top of it, under it, inside it, in its place. This is the inevitable fate of the earth's crust, which is gradually filling up: power stations, pylons, wires, airports, subways, road and rail networks, industrial plants, dykes, mines, factories, refineries, building complexes, service and information circuits form the redundant mechanism necessary for life. The new nature of the planet is the millions of projects, it is the anti-nature. [...] We must introduce the negative notion of de-project. The de-project is the project conceived in reverse: instead of increasing the quantity of information and materials, the de-project removes it, reduces it, minimises it, simplifies it, rationalises the mechanisms that have been jammed. The de-project is a decongesting creation, which does not have architectural form as its objective."
Alessandro Mendini, in Écrits d'Alessandro Mendini, op.cit. p.127-128.

Not always demolishing, destroying and redoing, but knowing how to analyse in order to conserve, adapt, reduce and optimise volumes, using materials already on site, developing local know-how and supporting local employment, is also a way of perpetuating public investments and anchoring oneself in a real ecological approach. It is an approach that makes do with what exists, that appropriates the place by building on it. It means affirming the volumes, taking into account the past context and imagining the future, so that the whole can evolve. Increasing the legibility of information for users means making it accessible to elements that can be modified and transformed over time.

Imagine, Draw, Inform, BIM

The libraries used for BIM (Building Information Modeling) are the entry point to the de-project. It is also the exact point where architecture and design meet.

The libraries used for BIM (Building Information Modeling) are the entry point to the de-project. It is also the exact point where architecture and design meet. The associated concepts can be deployed through the question of urbanity, but also through everyday gestures, notably the ordinary gesture inscribed in hyper-tools such as BIM, augmented reality, the various production processes in relation to artefacts and their cases. Digitalisation serves as a tool for the design and visualisation of the space in the making. It is therefore necessary to share this information, to give users access to the keys necessary for future transformations, repair and maintenance, by linking digital information with local production chains in order to work towards the development of local employment. The work set up at the agency lies firstly in a reduction of two families (workspace and housing) of existing typologies to create transgender buildings, then in the legibility of the structures; finally in the openness of the design and the information for future users. Re-use and modifications can thus be deployed in the association of parts of buildings on condition that the exact calculation of points structuring the space is known. To know and to give to know in order to be able to interact on an economy at its own scale, it is to accept not to make fixed forms. BIM plays the game of transmitting information about the material and the means of implementation, making it possible to archive this data for the client. This is the open standard. 

Quality and ethics

Artefacts that can be configured and modulated are the result of work between local craftsmen and digital production; users always have the possibility of modifying, transforming and repairing this range of elements if necessary from the work of Ultra Ordinaire.

Artefacts that can be configured and modulated are the result of work between local craftsmen and digital production; users always have the possibility of modifying, transforming and repairing this range of elements if necessary from the work of Ultra Ordinaire. They are part of the BIM library that we are developing to increase the uses and aesthetics of projects, while resolutely supporting territorial activity. We confirm that we need to think about our work by imagining new definitions of quality and not quantity. Design must dialogue throughout its process with resources and the qualities of the natural environment with labels. 

The crisis of quality requires a complete rethinking of the image that users perceive of the action and the link with a thought of solidarity inscribed in the social contract around employment, apprehending their consumption as a link between several elements. This fragmented, dislocated production chain, deteriorated by health scandals and excessive labelling, and divergent interests, has led to a situation of deep tension. 

Relocating means creating local links and organising production chains that are legible and fair to all, an ethic. It is a quality which, far from being confined to modes of visual perception, engages the whole dynamic of the bodily and sensory relations that the subject has with the world. The notion of form is then replaced by the much broader and more complex notion of a free and augmented interface, to communicate information about places and activities (signs in space). This interface can no longer be reduced to univocal and universal definitions, but is deeply mediated by the characteristics of individual and collective sensibility, by the oscillations and negotiations between subjection of taste and collective cultural perception. There are two types of qualities: primary qualities, such as the size, mass, specific weight of a body, which can be designated as objective, and therefore definable and measurable, and subjective qualities, such as colour, taste, smell, which are variable according to perceptions and cannot be measured. This is the role of databases that allow data to be remixed and transformed, under a Creative Commons licence. 

The office is dead, housing is sick, long live the Transgender Building

The main quality that a hospital city should have is the weak, incomplete and non-invasive character of the space projects, for example with partial systems, which would be positioned as technical elements in a given environment, which can be repaired, modified, including maintenance and transformation from their design, with a view to having a multi-use building. 

Smartworking and generation Y are developing, employment is changing, housing is in crisis, dissociated from its collective living environment: in other words, the office is dead. The evolution of the city is hampered by the impossibility of solving the complexity of a unitary model inherited from the modern era, and in particular the impossibility of creating links between fragmented places such as suburban areas and historic districts, and work areas. The main quality that a hospital city should have is the weak, incomplete and non-invasive character of the space projects, for example with partial systems, which would be positioned as technical elements in a given environment, which can be repaired, modified, including maintenance and transformation from their design, with a view to having a multi-use building. 

The objective is to identify models of how to do things, hybridisations of typologies, urban logics, which allow to manage the evolution of space, to rely on the energies and cultures of residents and users, and on the potential of territories. Imagining transgender buildings means reconfiguring the whole from spatial systems open to the unforeseen: it is a question of working on the assembly of two families, that of housing and that of the office, in a weak topology, therefore appropriable and transformable. The identification of relational spaces corresponding to the modes of use of the structures built in historical, modern and postmodern society, which has led to the loss of identity of places and sometimes transforms them into desolate landscapes, is essential, because life can take shape there, if the dynamics are accompanied, within a space which draws its quality and identity from microsystems, relationships, signs which are part of the shared local culture. 

Natural Milieu, Local Materials

The honesty of the material must go upstream of the question of waste through the valorisation of natural materials and culturally identifiable local know-how. It is a question of opening up perspectives that give new and culturally recognisable material values, and of building frugal projects that respond to the desires and expectations of civil society.

Today, materials cover an evanescent dimension; they often have elusive characteristi  s, breaking the synesthesias with which subjects were used to judge the products of nature, they have produced an environment. Fake wood, liquid crystals, highly resistant films are no longer unambiguously legible, their distinctions have fallen below our phenomenological recognition threshold, they depend on their physical and atomic structure, which only a chemist or an experimenter can recognise by means of tests. We no longer have universal interpretations for the world of materials. They have lost that set of stable properties that once enabled us not only to distinguish and use them correctly, but also to internalise them and assume them as a cultural value. Indeed, the material has lost its identity so much that the question of the use of waste has become a central issue as well as the question of reuse. While a solid wood plank has a materiality and a technical use that may allow the user to reuse it, a liquid injected wood does not have this opportunity. The honesty of the material must go upstream of the question of waste through the valorisation of natural materials and culturally identifiable local know-how. It is a question of opening up perspectives that give new and culturally recognisable material values, and of building frugal projects that respond to the desires and expectations of civil society. The first step in the use of a material is to find an expressive territory and an imaginary world in which it can be placed. The next step is the definition of a territory that the material can occupy functionally, prefiguring the different forms of application that can provide an immediate and cultural understanding of its evolution and durability or its reuse, often a formal "déjà vu"

Landscape, garden, Temperate Facade

The landscape is an integral part of the design work: it plays an essential role in the development and positioning of the building, whether through the play of framing through openings to the interior or through the link with the thermal environment.

The landscape is an integral part of the design work: it plays an essential role in the development and positioning of the building, whether through the play of framing through openings to the interior or through the link with the thermal environment. The garden conjures up the imaginary of a nature circumscribed by walls or a fence, developing the idea of a micro-space which, from its origins, would bring vegetation and architecture together, structuring it, while a real complicity can be established between the two.

For climatic reasons, the buildings must develop their relationship with vegetated spaces, in favour of better air circulation, a cool buffer zone between roads and the development of biodiversity. The facade proposes this change by means of vegetation and a brise soleil. Semi-shaded, the façade offers the possibility of keeping cool while retaining sunlight. Laying down, implanting, integrating, leaving the landscape and biodiversity free, the façade plays with an inside-out link to work simultaneously with an economic fabric, a social fabric and a societal fabric. Integrated - other than by norms and regulations - the notion of "temperate" displays its action with regard to the challenges of biodiversity and social representations of the city.

Sign, Space

Orientation gives the human being the possibility to know where he/she is and gives him/her a sense of security, orientation relies on the specific identification of the place for it to exist. Thus, place offers a unique perception, a specific knowledge and an identification of its own through an individual-place relationship, immediately creating a familiar feeling.

The reason why the notions around the Genius Loci theories have evolved so quickly in relation to the activities is that the project is about imagining spaces structured on weak principles. The spirit of place is the foundation of the phenomenology of architecture, which studies the relationship between individuals and the environment, structures experiences, with specific and meaningful activities. Two psychological functions are fundamental in this sense: orientation and identification. Orientation gives the human being the possibility to know where he/she is and gives him/her a sense of security, orientation relies on the specific identification of the place for it to exist. Thus, place offers a unique perception, a specific knowledge and an identification of its own through an individual-place relationship, immediately creating a familiar feeling, recalling memories, for example. At this junction, places and individuals become one. The Genius Loci programme allows the passage from an abstract place to a set of elements that characterise a place, causing a centrality between the different abstract elements (architectural programme), which play the role of existential space, from which individuals extend their own, their directions or paths, each place having its own orientations, and the set of elements facilitating the existential identification of individuals.

City 15min

Developing a city within a 15-minute walk means contributing to making historic centers into hybrid places, outside the logic of gentrification, so that suburban spaces develop spatial approaches to exchange and sharing, by promoting short supply circuits.

The mobility crisis, the development of smart working and self-employment: questions about the privation of public space are generating a greater demand for reconfiguration. The environment is built on metastases; the same approaches can be found more or less everywhere in response to the Pasqua law of 1998, which must allow every citizen to be less than forty-five minutes from a freeway entrance or exit, generating city bypass routes, strings of circular roads, and interchanges, ramps and various bypasses. 

It is necessary to reconsider a complex by leaving the ideological frameworks that have already been tried and tested.  Urban planning, by "zoning" and, more generally, all the instruments with which the architectural culture has processed urban intervention, have been based until now on the hypothesis of the creation of vast homogeneous zones, rationalizing urban planning. Recently, signs of tension between the new suburban districts, the historic center and the additions of modern urbanism put in crisis the "cold" connotations of the planned areas, the isolation of the suburban areas, or the gentrification of the historic city center. The historical city plays the role of a show-luxe-boutique bobo, a temple of consumption where to show off. Attempts to build a modern city become zones of tension and ghettoization. The suburban areas are expanding to give the dream of interiors. According to an American vision of "no parking, no business", hypermarkets are setting up shop with their carpets, while Amazon, under the guise of avoiding the crowds of hypermarkets and their huge parking lots, favors the "entre soi" to the detriment of its carbon footprint and its mitigation plan. The mobility crisis, the spark of the yellow vests protest movement, starts here: the financial possibility of acquiring a peri-urban house does not take into account the high cost of travel for work, extracurricular activities, etc. Moreover, the transformation of employment is confronted with the learning machine and certain professions are threatened by the increased arrival of digital technology in the organization of companies. 

All of this leads to a feeling of confinement between four walls and a garden, or of being overwhelmed in certain anxiety-provoking situations. 

The 15-minute walk to the city is based on this reconfiguration of space to encourage direct and pedestrian forms of supply in favor of biodiversity. This impulse of a common work around the habitat covers a major stake, at the time of the reduction of economic activities, by developing new and complementary economic activities.