Lara Almarcegui, Matériaux de construction, Campus de Beaulieu, Rennes, 2014

Médiation and production: 40mcube & Eternal Network.

As part of the New Partners action of the Fondation de France.

Campus de Beaulieu
Université de Rennes 1
Bâtiment 32A
Allée Étienne Marey
35000 Rennes

The project Matériaux de construction, Campus de Beaulieu, Rennes by Lara Almarcegui consists in identifying construction materials used as building components on the Beaulieu University of Rennes 1 campus. In the form of text, the work of the same name lists different materials and their mass, and is painted directly onto one of the campus buildings. It marks a precise moment of this territory under constant evolution.

The work of Lara Almarcegui is the outcome of an order process carried out within the New Patrons program of the Fondation de France. A group of students from the Social careers department at the IUT Rennes, along with their teacher Philippe Dorval, noted a lack of communication between individuals of the same class year, between class years and between different degrees offered on the campus.

In wishing to work with an artist, they hoped to be the engine of change, to signify the open-mindedness that drives them and to affirm certains values such as knowing, identifying and speaking with one another. This order was, for them, an opportunity through art, to work on basic questions about their degree, such as the renewal of practices in the sociocultural field, the use of spaces, norms, relationships with other departments, the relay between each new class and their place in time.

Lara Almarcegui offers an unusual look at architecture and town planning, revealing the organisation of a neighborhood or town according to its history and successive choices made. Her work can take the shape of an inventory, such as the project she created in the wastelands of Amsterdam. Her work can be that of interventions held in public spaces where she invites the public to attend the demolition of a building, or massive demonstrations in which she presents, either inside or next to a building, the materials and quantities that were used in its construction. These projects, overflowing from the traditional confines of an exhibition and mixing with public space, are always subject to a large amount of collaboration and teamwork.

The Social careers department of the IUT Rennes is located on the Beaulieu campus. With an area of nearly 150 acres, this campus is modeled after its american counterparts, and is made up of many buildings integrated into vast areas of furrowed lawns by roads and pedestrian paths. A large part of the buildings, constructed between 1961 and 1970, were designed by the architect and planner Louis Arretche (1905-1991). These concrete buildings were conceived along the principal of reproducible modules, by means of a system that allowed for their prefabrication and extension. Passage between them was also thought out by means of numerous walkways and covered hallways. Certain buildings are mounted on piles in order to adapt to the undulating terrain (*). Ever since this initial construction, new structures appear yearly to answer to the needs of a developping university. Though designed by different architects, all buildings speak to the architecture of Louis Arretche.

In the face of this unique landscape, in a « town » where the most is made of each space, Lara Almarcegui hopes to guide her commissioners—and more broadly the public—to become more aware of the context and the landscape in which students, teachers, researchers, personnel and visitors evolve day-to-day. She thus offers to calculate the mass of the material used to construct the entirety of the buildings on campus. This endeavour necessitated the formation of a team composed of commissioners but also students and teachers of others degrees on campus. Artist and students worked jointly with the Direction of Real Estate ressources where Antoine Herzog furnished them with numerous paper or computer sources (blueprints, maps, architecture projects and diverse documents) stored in the archives. This information was completed and verified by measurements taken on site by the students. From this pool of information on the measurements and materials, two students from the Department of Civil Engineering and Sustainable Construction, Yaëlle Epyneau and Noémie Chauvineau, supervised by their teacher Céline Chauvet-Cantagrel and the architect Nicolas Thébault of Anthracite Architecture, established a method of calculation. The difficulty came in defining the limits of the calculations, the choice of predominating material being made, as well as deciding the mass of architecture as oppose to interior decoration. Thanks to this method, the students were able to calculate the mass and, after three months work, the list of materials appeared.

Concrete is the most abundantly used material, at 264,178 tons, followed by brick, mortar, asphalt, steel, plaster, glass and, finally, wood. The calculations included 72 existing buildings, including the prefabricated wooden buildings, the 15 walkways connecting them, the sports terrains, the approximately 10 acres of parking lots as well as the over 12 acres of asphalt roadways. Thus, the campus and its buildings are deconstructed ; a reverse process from that of the architects who conceive of a building. This operation, reminiscent of the action of a child disassembling toys, allows one to understand and to be able to see differently, that which creates an environment. This list of materials makes reference to the campus before its construction and before their use. It marks a stage in the development of the campus which, each year, welcomes new buildings.

Lara Almarcegui’s project evokes the life of a building and a territory that is proven to be a permanent cycle, while at the same time knowing that when one building is demolished to make room for another, the materials are crushed and sorted, then brought back to their initial mass in order to be recycled. In the form of letters and numbers, this list becomes an abstraction of the campus permitting the creation of other images. On one of the buildings, 32A, placed along a roadside, this work establishes a connection between the campus and the town. Following in the line of works of other calculations of buildings, neighborhoods or towns the artist has done (**), while all the while being the first work to take place in a public space, CONSTRUCTION MATERIALS, BEAULIEU CAMPUS, RENNES becomes an emblematic indicator of 1960-70’s style, which makes up one of the architectural identities of Rennes.

(*) AMOUROUX,Dominique, Louis Arretche, Gollion : Infolio, Paris : Éditions du patrimoine, coll. Carnets d’architectes, 2010.
(**) As with the Villa Haus Lange by Mies van der Rohe (Germany), the spanish pavillion of the Biennial of Venice (Italy), the historical centers of Burgos (Spain), of Dijon (France) and of Lund (Sweden) as well as the entirety of the town of São Paulo (Brazil).