Carole Lemans

The potential of contemporary reed architecture

Living on the edge, by Arjen Reas (Zoetermeer, Netherlands), 2020 © photo : Carole Lemans
Living on the edge, by Arjen Reas (Zoetermeer, Netherlands), 2020 © photo : Carole Lemans

Date of defense: December 2, 2022

Thesis supervisor: François FLEURY
Laboratory: Architecture Territoire Environnement (ENSA Normandie) / ED 556 HSRT
Funding: French Ministry of Culture, BRAUP
Date of 1st thesis registration: 2019

Jury members

Arthur HELLOUIN DE MENIBUS, Docteur, Examinateur
Ali LIMAM, Professeur INSA Lyon, Rapporteur
Jean-Baptiste MARIE, Professeur ENSA Clermont-Ferrand, Examinateur
Soline NIVET, Professeur ENSA Paris Malaquais, Rapporteure

Thesis summary

This doctoral thesis in architecture examines the potential of the "reed" resource in contemporary architecture, taking into account the issues linked to the sector and its players, the constructive and performance dimensions, and the possible registers of expression.
First, the potential of contemporary thatch architecture is studied in relation to the distance taken with traditional thatch roofing forms and techniques. This is followed by a theoretical assessment of the material's limits and potential today, based in particular on observation of the Dutch context. These elements are then confronted with a set of contemporary achievements, apprehended on the one hand according to the morphological analysis of an extensive corpus, and on the other hand through a smaller number of case studies and the discourses that accompany them. The assumption that contemporary thatch architecture is ecological is only partially correct. The realization of its potential actually requires certain conditions in order to be ecologically effective.
The second part of this thesis is deliberately forward-looking, and proposes to investigate through experimentation the potential of reed architecture, and no longer thatch: can we make this material more ecological? It presents three project situations seeking to innovate with reed, two of which are specifically developed within the framework of the thesis. With a different level of reading on these experiments, we observe the influence of the level of knowledge, concerning reed and the thatching technique, on the performance of the design process.
The thesis observes and documents over a hundred buildings ranging from the 2000s to 2021. The field of study, mainly focused on France, also extends to Europe and, to a lesser extent, Japan, where the climate is more or less similar to that of France. As the current French thatching industry is poorly documented, field investigation through learning the practice of thatching is an important part of the knowledge contribution, leading today to the constitution of a network of reed actors.

Damien Renault

Training local elected officials in architecture, or architecture as political education

Damien Renault

Date of defense: October 5, 2023

Thesis supervisor: Caroline MANIAQUE
Laboratory: Architecture Territoire Environnement (ENSA Normandie) / ED 556 HSRT
Funding: French Ministry of Culture, BRAUP
Date of 1st thesis registration: 2018

Jury members

Véronique BIAU, Architecte-urbaniste en chef de l'État, ENSA de Paris-La-Villette, LET-LAVUE, rapporteur
Pierre CAYE, Directeur de recherche, ENS Ulm, Centre Jean-Pépin, rapporteur
Jean-Charles CHABANNE, Professeur des Universités, ENS Lyon, Institut français de l'éducation, ECP, LIRDEF, examiner
Arnaud DUTHEIL, Architect, examiner
Marc FROCHAUX, Architect, examiner

Thesis summary

In response to political demands for local elected officials to be trained in architecture by existing advisory, mediation and training institutions, and given the anthropological and cultural difficulties raised by these demands, this thesis raises the question of edilitary training opportunities: when, in what situations, on what occasions, in what circumstances, formal and informal, are local elected officials likely to "encounter" architecture, to have a "formative contact" with it?
Two avenues have been pursued: first, based on the model of training engineering, the referentialization of edilitary activities and skills (I); then, based on the analysis of teaching practices, the definition and modeling of a "teaching object" (II). The research is based first on urban planning law and architectural criticism (I), then on a corpus of (hypothetically) formative situations: advisory, mediation and (explicitly) training situations (II). The thesis thus highlights the fundamental capacity (in an edilitary frame of reference) to pay attention to, appreciate and judge construction (I), then shows how consulting architects, mediators and trainers exercise this capacity - their own and that of their audience(s) - through the "architectural reading" of projects and sites (II).
Through this didactic proposal, defined as a set of reflective operations or spiritual exercises contributing to the appropriate judgment of construction, the thesis intends to contribute to research: on the one hand, in the field of architecture, by reintroducing (the relationship to) architecture into "processual" research and initiating an anthropological approach to the profession and the discipline; which, on the other hand, falls within the field of education and training sciences, more precisely within the horizon of ergo-didactics, seeking in teachers' "professional gestures" the foundation of taught knowledge.

The proposal also responds to the initial political demand, presenting itself as a tool for improving (or didactizing) current architectural advisory and mediation practices, and for professionalizing advisors and mediators.
Finally, going beyond this demand, the survey allows us to consider architectural advisory, mediation and training as a means of political education for elected representatives.