In the framework of the Young Architects Forum last year in Barcelona, ACE talked with Jaufret Barrot about quality in the built environment, sustainability, temporary use and reuse of empty buildings, YTAA and the relevance of architectural policies.
ACE: Thank you for joining the Young Architects’ Forum last year in Barcelona on the theme ‘Perspectives’. What are your ‘take away messages’ from this conference?
Jaufret BARROT: “There are two important aspects that stand out to me. First, put people back at the centre of our projects. There is an increasing demand from citizens for pragmatic projects, where they can get involved, do it for themselves and be an actor.
Secondly, the climate emergency requires architects to be ambitious in terms of the environment and to go beyond mere regulation. It is encouraging to see exemplary projects coming up across Europe. These new challenges force us to reinvent our profession, to collaborate more. There is a positive and optimistic trend for young architects to work collectively to bring concrete solutions, which is really exciting!”
ACE: In 2016, you were a Young Talent Architecture Prize finalist, what does this prize represent for your career? What are the opportunities offered by this award?
Jaufret BARROT: “This award marks the end of my studies and the beginning of my professional life. It values all of the work carried out during a year with my colleague Cinthia Carrasco, in the district of Toulouse called Bordelongue, as part of my graduation project and my two teachers, Daniel Estevez and Francine Zarcos.
The Young Talent Architecture Award ensured visibility and recognition among institutional actors who paid attention to my project and facilitated the implementation of transitory occupancy projects for vacant buildings. Thus, thanks to all this work and this Award, I was able to launch my own architectural practice called “Hors-Pistes Architectures” and open the first centre for '' temporary emergency accommodation for 220 people in a public building” (which had been empty for 5 years), in collaboration with Agence Intercalaire and Studio-K in Toulouse.“
ACE: During the ACE Forum you challenged the public by asking "Why do we build new offices when our heritage is often underused with many empty spaces?” Build less and enhance existing built heritage as an answer to climate change mitigation?
Jaufret BARROT: “We are facing the greatest challenge that our society has had to face, namely mitigating the climate change caused by human activity. Behind this question to which you are referring, I query our development model, which is based on growth, generating waste and overconsumption. This model is also the engine of construction. Nowadays, a large parts of real estate projects are equivalent to consumer products, responding to a trend, designed for a pre-defined use and for a certain lifespan. It’s a short-term vision. For example, an office building that’s more than 5 years old is considered as an old building by marketeers. We need to look differently at what they have built, but also to value existing elements – what’s already there. We must reconsider these residual spaces i.e. vacant buildings. They are both resources and opportunities.
In France, the Ile-de-France corporate real estate observatory estimated that in 2016, there are more than 5 million square meters of vacant offices. In Toulouse, there are more than 450,000 square meters of empty offices. As the population increases by 18,000 inhabitants per year, architects must be proactive in optimising the use of these vacant buildings, either by adapting them where possible, or by renovating and permanently transforming them.”
ACE: Your "Eux-RE" project is part of a participative approach where solutions are found with the inhabitants who help to design the architectural project. People at the centre. Can you tell us more about this project and your approach to include residents? And the role of the architect.
Jaufret BARROT: “This “Eux-RE” project is part of the Dessine-moi Toulouse call for projects. It is located in the old municipal workshops spaces of Lapujade. We have chosen to be as inclusive and as pragmatic as possible. For the past year, the existing buildings have housed young structures of the social and collective economy whose activity is based on integration work through bicycle repair. These types of structures face the difficulty of finding affordable premises in the city, due to real estate pressures. However, these activities are real levers for social ties in a neighborhood and thus job generators. In order to ensure the survival of these structures in cities, we imagined a project of self-renovation of existing workshops spaces, by the structures themselves, which was the only viable economic model for them. We organised working meetings and reunions with neighbourhood associations, structures of the social, collective and cultural economy to build, with them, this proposal for the call for projects. We played the driving role in connecting all of these actors and constructing the team. We also had to play the role of mediator, to synthesise all the needs and translate all of this into a feasible project. The result is a mixed project, combining the renovation of workshops, the creation of 60 new dwellings, 42 of which are in ‘community housing’ supported by the Workers' Housing Committee (COL).
This project also includes the renovation of the old carpentry hall for the future installation of a cultural centre supported by the Electric Forest, combining broadcasting and audiovisual creation. The “Eux-RE” project aims to be as open to the neighbourhood as possible. The temporary use of this site by the Agence Intercalaire will also help to activate this place this year and allow users to get involved in the project.”
ACE: How do you see your project aging?
Jaufret BARROT: “By putting users back at the heart of the project, the primary objective is that the building meets their needs better. On the other hand, by taking, once again, an important place in the life and the management of the place, by accompanying them towards a self-management, that limits the risks of deterioration. This favours the establishment of a suitable climate for the building to age well, with real maintenance over the long term. By involving users in the project, we empower them. Ideally, my projects would continue to harbour life, even if the actors and the users with whom I worked initially change. To ensure the optimal aging of a project, in addition to the initial quality to be incorporated in the building, it must be sufficiently well designed to be as evolutionary as possible and not limit the transformations and the future adaptation of the building.”
ACE: In your opinion, what is the relevance of architectural policies? What are your expectations at EU level in terms of supporting professional practice and guaranteeing the quality of the built environment?
Jaufret BARROT: “In my view, the limit of architectural policies is that they have only quantitative objectives and few qualitative requirements, as we have seen in the past in the 1970s in France with the creation of new cities. Moreover, this heritage is doomed for demolition, because urban renewal policies lead to their demolition. In some cases, this is necessary when the building is too old or of poor quality. However, this policy is not the real issue, it is about what the inhabitants of these residences want and how to improve their living environment. Public architectural policies remain top-down visions taking very little account of the place of users in the design and implementation.
The European Union has also a broader role in environmental policy and the regulation of the profession. It can favour innovation and research in architecture to allow a wider integration of user involvement in projects, the re-use of vacant buildings, the re-use of deconstruction materials and to optimise environmental performance by integrating criteria of use and social values."
ACE : In your opinion, what will architecture be like in the coming years and decades? What are the emerging new trends and tendencies?
Jaufret BARROT: “I imagine a pragmatic, organic, lively architecture, making good use of local technology and resources in materials, but also in jobs. I imagine an architecture embracing the environmental question in a global way. That is to say, it cannot be limited to simple energy performance. I sometimes see the architect as a doctor who examines a patient. Our role is to study a building or an area and to offer the best possible treatment, with and for users. This is what is also reflected in the emergence of collectives in architecture, or new practices, are to design and build projects with beneficiaries, in a bottom-up manner, to be as close as possible to the reality of needs and as relevant as possible. The architect has a real role to play in transforming society and improving our living environment.”
ACE: As a young architect, what was the best advice you received?
Jaufret BARROT: “The best advice I ever got was from my teachers during my Master studies, Daniel Estevez and Francine Zarcos, who always encouraged me to persevere in my work, on projects close to my heart, because it makes sense on a human level. Through their teaching, they taught me to keep a critical eye on society and to assert my values, while keeping a fresh look and a certain innocence in order to continue to imagine and create a pragmatic architecture anchored in its environment."
Jaufret BARROT is a French architect and civil-engineer based in Toulouse (France). Finalist of the Young Talent Architect Award in 2016, he designed a solution to adapt unused buildings into temporary housing, with the contribution and implication of the people living or working there (Bordelongue neighborhood, Toulouse). Since 2016, he has continued developing the concept of reusing empty buildings. He has founded his own architecture studio, Hors Pistes Architectures (off-trail Architectures).
On 23 November 2019, the Architects’ Council of Europe organised a conference with the title 'Perspectives', inviting young architects from all over Europe to express their views on the profession and their visions and aspirations for the future. Video of the session with presentations followed by panel discussion and Q&A with the audience Sebastian SKOVSTED, Johansen Skovsted Arkitekter (Denmark) Jaufret BARROT, Finalist 2016 Young Talent Architecture Award (France) N’UNDO (Spain) Filipe MAGALHÃES, Fala Atelier (Portugal) are available on ACE youtube channel.