Learning from Uzeste

  • Year 2013
  • Architects Ateliers Learning from (ENSA Toulouse) - Christophe Hutin, Daniel Estevez
  • Location Uzeste, France

How can we transform our daily environment with simplicity? How can we improve and maintain it without destroying it? How can we usefully involve architects, inhabitants, and builders in these ecological transformations? The ENERGY & PEOPLE project between France and South Africa organized by the Toulouse School of Architecture offers French and South African architecture students the opportunity to work on these questions by conducting constructive experiments in a real environment. The first experiment was carried out in November 2012 in South Africa, in the troubled neighborhood of Kliptown in Soweto. The students, with the help of the inhabitants, rehabilitated a social center that welcomes and provides education for children and young people (Soweto Kilptown Youth). In the framework of Saisons Croisées France & South Africa, France hosted the second stage of this architectural and artistic experience in Uzeste, Gironde, where Bernard Lubat’s famous Uzeste Music festival has been held for thirty years. Various architectural experiments are being organized around the Théâtre Amusicien l’Estaminet, a flagship venue for improvised music in France, and concern the themes of ephemeral action and improvisation in architecture. Improvising requires attention to the environment and its resources and a sense of the situation. Architecture and music converge on the principles of using context and seizing opportunities. The first work installed in the village center is a large pile of logs from a storm, a familiar and monumental element of the local landscape. On this wall of wood, the word “free” is inscribed in bas relief as a tribute to the work of the local forestry industry. All the works use local resources. Industrialists in the timber industry are partners in the project and contribute their expertise. Gérard Vierge, the coordinator of the Above project, accompanies this research and creation process. Many other ephemeral projects were then improvised: a vegetable garden living room made of plywood, an open-air classroom by the water, a walk-by gallery, a dance floor in the meadows, plantations by the stream, a ballroom in the theatre, flowers, writings, huts… Each architectural experience is an opportunity to solicit South African views and knowledge of the concrete conditions of our daily life with exchanges, reflection, and collective action. Despite apparent differences, the rural context of the village shares many similarities with Kliptown and the experiences are mutually enriching. As part of the Printemps d’Uzeste festival, artists interact with all the workshop participants for exchanges and concerts onsite. This reflective and festive assembly is based on the energy of the people and their enthusiasm for these projects.