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Sustainable development implies mankind’s capacity to restore the harmonious relations that in the past constituted our sense of being an indissociable part of nature. This journey will be undertaken with due regard to context and to modernity, and with a sense of its belonging to specific territories and the people who inhabit them.
We need to get back the ‘genius loci’ and our capacity as human beings to use our work to glorify the work of nature.
This project will be a poetic evocation of the Mediterranean genius that has produced a city like Aigues-Mortes, with its smooth fusion of the rational and the poetic, or the symbolic and visually powerful church of Fos-sur-Mer, or the rock of Vitrolles and the ancestral city of Istres. It will celebrate men’s work by preserving the archeological traces of the fertilizer plant of Rassuen and creating a belvedere on the old saltworks so that collective memory endures unbroken.
‘The spirit of modernity is merely the soul of the past.’ Paul Valéry
Designing and creating architecture over a site like the one where we’re being asked to build an urban area doesn’t mean erasing that site, the way you take a duster and wipe out, eradicate, information from the previous class chalked on a blackboard. It means the opposite: it means revealing, accentuating, detailing fundamental characteristics: the contoured terrain, the rocks, grasses, colours, materials, and traces of a past that’s been outpaced and abandoned. Generally abandoning means renouncing, dropping, jettisoning, surrendering. We won’t be doing any of that. We prefer abandoning in the sense of making a gift, leaving a legacy, the way you relinquish your fortune to the younger generation. We’ll do this by insisting on the assets of the existing treasure-trove: the topography, constant encounters with the lagoon crossed by its axial wall, with the horizons, and with historic Istres and a landscape pervaded and tamed by the softly undulating golf course and the serenity of golfers ambling about with their friends. This way the place is made richer, more complex, the more fully to embrace these new aspects of its livability. But it isn’t carved up! It is structured by a composition that’s in step with Istres’ great historic and geographic dimensions, echoing the built line of the lagoon and already integrated surprises like traces of the town of today. Nothing is forced: from the archeological or rock-slide hotels to the rampart car park, the web of urban hubs, and the stone walls separating the houses – everything, here, is in keeping with the sunny harmony of the Mediterranean.
Salvaging, recycling, not wasting anything…
A metaphysical horizon built on lagoons.
A stone landscape built on labour.
Those will be the values that go into the magic spell this new built landscape will cast.
Salvaging and reusing all the materials in situ. Firstly the stone; the stone bears the memory of work, the truth of a genuine job within a short production line. Its environmental footprint is exemplary. When stone goes to the dump, a bit of the soul of Provence is martyred.
This property development will seek an improbable utopia: the autonomy of the building principles… Stone and concrete: a poetic and political choice that opposes consumerism. This venture will be provincial in identity, mannerist in Barbey d’Aurevilly’s sense of the term, and regionalised. Escaping the world of cynical speculation, it will contribute to a redistribution of wealth through work-sharing and the values that go with it.