ERA21 #06/2023 France: Creative Frugality

kniha editorial

Creative Frugality »

Gabriela Morlé Králová

French architecture of the 20th century is very closely tied to the usage of concrete, possibly more so than in other countries. Let’s think of Auguste Perret or Le Corbusier, both of whom became famous for their exposed and rough concrete designs. Considered durable and relatively cheap, concrete can be used almost everywhere and with many different surface treatments. But it also needs sand and water, while the production of cement alone is responsible for approximately 7 % global CO2 of the world’s emissions. Concrete is great, but at the moment it’s being overused, also it’s too expensive in the long run, and questionable in terms of its environmental impacts. True, we can’t do without it when building bridges and foundations, but in many other cases we can. And there are other materials—wood, straw, reed, rock, earth, hemp—gradually finding their way into contemporary French architecture.

» entire article

kniha completed project

Spa Transformer. Multi-Purpose Courtyard Extension of the Kaiserbad Spa in Karlovy Vary »

Petr Hájek, Martin Stoss, Nikoleta Slováková / Petr Hájek Architekti

A new multi-purpose hall was built in the grand courtyard of the 1895 neo-renaissance Kaiserbad Spa, one of the classic symbols of the West Bohemian spa town of Karlovy Vary. The red steel extension rests on six ground supports, avoiding physical contact with the listed building. This way the contemporary intervention is visibly acknowledged and also reversible. The movable seating allows the space to be transformed into a conference room or a ballroom with a flat floor. The stage is equipped with acoustic wall panels, and there are movable parts to adjust the space for various acoustic requirements. The entire structure resembles a big red Transformer robot, which is in keeping with the industrial aesthetic of the bath as a whole, transforming the courtyard for a new function.

» entire article

World Without End »

Jean-Marc Jancovici, Christophe Blain

Recently released in Czech by Argo Publishers, World Without End (Le Monde sans fin, Dargaud, 2021) is a graphic novel by Jean-Marc Jancovici, a French energy and climate expert, and Christophe Blain, award-winning illustrator and graphic artist. The book offers an insightful and amusing look at all the different methods of producing energy, humanity’s total dependance on energy, and at the fundamental changes our planet is undergoing at the moment. Over six hundred thousand copies of the book have been sold in France so far.


How Many Architects Thank Their Contractors? Dominique Gauzin-Müller and Christophe Aubertin Interviewed by Gabriela Morlé Králová »

Two pioneers of frugality in the French context—Dominique Gauzin-Müller, architect and co-author of the Manifesto for a Happy and Creative Frugality, and Christophe Aubertin, architect and founder of the first local group of the Frugality Movement—explain what frugality means in architecture and what it can look like in everyday practice.


Creating at Home. Simon Teyssou Interviewed by Gabriela Morlé Králová and ERA21 editors »

 Born in Paris to an American mother and a French father, architect Simon Teyssou grew up in the Cantal department of France, in a small village with only a few farms and no television. Meadows, woods, rivers and vegetable fields, herds of Salers cattle and stable buildings—all played a role in his professional formation. As much as he felt grounded in the region, he also stayed abroad for extended periods of time, especially in the US. In an interview with ERA21 he talks about his motivation for working in his home region and the inspiration he takes from the local history and our ancestors’ legacy.

completed project

Discreet Acupuncture. Fort l’Ecluse Museum near Léaz Antoine Petit, Nicolas Debicki, Grichka Martinetti / atelierpng »

Antoine Petit, Nicolas Debicki, Grichka Martinetti / atelierpng

By building the new reception area and vertical circulation space, a new story is now being told about the Fort l’Ecluse, a military stronghold towering above the river Rhône near the Swiss border. Built in the seventeenth century, the fort went through alternating periods of war and peace, often changing its function and being rebuilt for a new purpose, creating layers and layers of historical construction. A new contemporary layer now revalorizes the fort for tourism, showcasing the military history of the place and its singular position anchored in the steep rock of the river bank. The discreet intervention to the existing structure also reused rocks from the demolished parts, giving them a second life in the form of gabion walls, which became the most visible part of the project. Vertical apertures in the gabion walls are reminiscent of historical arrow slits and today they frame views to the surrounding landscape.

completed project

Back to the Future. Office Building in Lyon »

Clément Vergély Architectes, Diener & Diener Architekten

The Orangery, a three story office building with striking rammed earth arches, was built recently as part of the urban renewal project in Lyon’s neighborhood, La Confluence. Earth building has a strong tradition in this part of France, though not so much in urban areas due to frequent floods in the 19th century. In modern times, this problem has been solved by river regulation, which has allowed this sustainable construction to finally return to the city. The Orangery’s load bearing walls of prefabricated rammed earth blocks are complemented by a rigid central circulation core of CLT. The plinth and the wall crown are of natural stone. The timber floor beams rest on the earth wall ledges.


Poured Earth: Local and Frugal Materials Matthieu Fuchs Interviewed by Dominique Gauzin-Müller »

An expert in low embodied energy building materials, architect Matthieu Fuchs and his Mil Lieux studio has already completed several earth-wall buildings, using rammed earth for the the Badonviller health center and the University Institute of Technology in Tarbes, and poured earth for the Manom community center and the Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val school. In conversation with sustainable architecture expert Dominique Gauzin-Müller, Matthieu Fuchs shares his experience of working with this promising construction method. 


Teaching Frugality: Learning to Work With the Situation »

Estelle Morlé

 In recent decades, thermo-industrial corporations have allowed us great freedom in the act of building, and particularly in the design phase, by making available a great diversity of materials, without any apparent limits, regardless of time and space. As one planetary limit after another is breached, however, the time has come to question the environmental cost of this freedom, and reassess our present practices in order to drastically reduce our consumption of materials and energy. In architecture, this perspective of more frugal practices supposes a re-anchoring of the design process in the contingencies of a situation. While the integration of constraints is at the essence of all architectural design, the quest for frugality requires, for architects, a redoubled evaluation of the needs of each project. 

completed project

The Smell of Bread and Straw. Grocery Shop and Bakery in Reventin-Vaugris »

Estelle Morlé, Gabriela Morlé Králová / Les Archinautes

Reventin-Vaugris is a commune located a few kilometers south of the town of Vienne, where most of the necessary shops and amenities can be found. The central part of the commune therefore lost its former vitality; only a restaurant and a bakery are left. A new building incorporating a bakery, diner, and a grocery shop was commissioned following a citizen survey—finally taking the form of two simple connected volumes on a site between the church and the cemetery, close to the town hall and the school. The bigger volume has a shallow recess in the north facade, intended as a street display, and a symmetrical one in the south facade creating a covered porch adjacent to the back garden intended as a meeting place for the locals. The shape of the building is reminiscent of the 19th century markets and halls, but built with timber and straw instead of steel. The original bakery moved into the second and smaller volume.


Living Materials »

Miriam Josi, Stella Lee Prowse / Aléa /, César Bazaar; Nicolas Bellet, Aude Le Stum / Pavillon Noir Architectures /, Marlon Bagnou Beido, Soufyane El Koraichi

Design objects have the potential to integrate living elements into their composition, form, ornamental character, and production processes. They should be developed in a manner that addresses the pressing challenges confronting our built environment. This involves exploring alternatives to resource depletion and ways to reduce the carbon footprint associated with the constructed landscape. Living Materials (Matières Vivantes) exhibition showcases the experiments, samples, and prototypes of three innovative design projects supported by the FAIRE experimentation platform. Through their work on minimizing the energy impact of manufacturing processes and on unlocking the technical and aesthetic potential of materials derived from readily available organic matter, the design projects establish a compelling dialogue between living tissue and inanimate objects.



Zdenko Malík



Iva Bastlová



Petr Vaněk

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