Collectif Etc. is a group made up of architects and designers who set off on a year-long cycling trip around France to encounter examples of citizen-led urban development and experiment with temporary urban interventions in a variety of settings.
During this trip they supported local networks of people interested in realizing projects in public space and applied their diverse range of skills to make a series of interventions in cities around the country. Now they have turned to a crowd-sourcing campaign to fund the printing of their new book that retraces this journey, entitled Détour de France: An Education off the Beaten Path.
Their work is motivated by the desire to find ways to integrate local populations into the creative process regarding the built environment of their cities. Over the course of the year which is documented in Détour de France, more than twenty unique projects were created. Outside of just the projects and encounters that are presented in the book, the collective has an impressive portfolio of urban interventions. In this article we take a look at just 2 of these projects that particularly stand out to us as interesting examples of temporary constructions in urban spaces.
Place to Change
In July of 2011, Collectif Etc. first intervened in a space in the Chateaucreux neighbourhood of Saint-Étienne. To reflect the changing nature of buildings in this district, the space was drawn into an imaginary plan of a house including separated rooms.
The group stayed true to its vision of involving residents in the physical realization of this space. Workshops in carpentry, gardening, and illustration were a way to engage different types of people and to build the space together.
2 years later, in 2013, due to a lack of maintenance and the temporary nature of the previous project, the Place du Géant- so called because of the distinct artwork — had lost its way. This time the collective intervened once again, having assessed the problems of the past. The critique of temporary interventions is that they cannot solve long-term problems of a space. Also, those responsible for carrying out pop-up projects, as well as the public, loses interest in a space once their work is realized. By revisiting and implementing a new strategy for the Place du Géant after a period of two years, Collectif Etc. offers a refreshing approach to the management and execution of projects of temporary interventions.
The second time around, Collectif Etc. had a goal to democratize the creation and design of this space. Along with an open market that brought in local actors and residents, the collective invited 5 different creative groups (designers, architects, landscapers, etc), and gave them each the chance to transform one of the “rooms”. In the spirit of collaboration and public inclusion, each group brought in their unique skill-set to remake a segment of the space.
On the Moon
During their détour, in July 2012, Collectif Etc. was invited to Henin-Beaumont in the north of France to participate in a temporary installation that would transform a heap, considered to be a wasteland, into an interactive urban space. The small hill had not been used for anything, and had no roads making it accessible to residents, despite the lack of public space in the city.
Playing on the view that this heap resembles something other-wordly, the concept of “on the moon” was born, and construction of various temporary elements would make this a lively and playful space. On top of the heap, two ‘moon-bases’ were built from geodesic domes, which were designed to be used as storage for equipment and onsite kitchens for those participating in the project.
The second element in this construction was a temporary installation of stairs/slide that made the hill much more accessible to children and the elderly and added a sense of play to the journey up and down the heap. Along with the production of a short film, the installations served to give residents access to this unused heap and the project collectively questions the role and potential of such a space in the heart of a city. The project is an innovative way to involve local residents in the rediscovery of such a space and supports the creation of social links by working together.
If you are interested to know more about Collectif Etc., check out their website. For more on temporary interventions, and the possibility of experimenting with citizen-led urban development, consider supporting the Ulule campaign — and be among the first to read Détour de France.