The Pirate Bubble: Parasite Architecture From The Seventies

Doing research for the upcoming Pop-Up City book, we came across a great ‘Pop-Up City avant la lettre’ project by Jean-Louis Chanéac (1931-1993). In 1971, the French architect installed a parasite bedroom on the façade of a regular modernist residential apartment block in Geneva, Switzerland. Chanéac’s ‘parasitic sucking cells’ are mobile, evolutionary and a complete contrast to the host building’s architectural style in every sense possible.

With this work the architect wanted to experiment with a new architectural language. Avignon-born Chanéac was one of the first to experiment with spontaneous, temporary and adaptable architectural solutions. Developed as temporary and supplementary spaces, “parasitic cells are volumetric inhabitable elements which are mass-produced by industry or spontaneously built by individuals. They can be erected in a matter of hours onto the façades of buildings as a way of creating complementary inhabitable spaces”, is claimed on the website of the European Student Competitions for Sustainable Architecture.

The Pirate Bubble

Interior of the Pirate Bubble

The Pirate Bubble

For the construction of this so-called ‘La Bulle Pirate’, Chanéac used synthetic materials such as laminates, resins, glass fiber, reinforced polyester and foam. The use of these materials was totally new in an era in which concrete was the dominant construction material. Chanéac applied for a patent for these multifunctional plastic cells, which could be produced in the factory, transported by road and assembled in two hours. However, he never managed to roll out the project on a bigger scale.