Q: It all started when I knew I was going to Vietnam to do an exchange program. Amazing oportunity to study abroad and in a country very different from France.
Since I’ve started working on the site I’ve been very interested in anything that is related to construction. Every trip was an opportunity to see how they do things elsewhere. My degree in wood construction allowed me to get some technical knowledge and understanding of construction. While my Architecture degree gave me perspective on the buildings that I observe, it was really pleasant for me to come to Vietnam because I would be able to observe and learn about Vietnamese architecture and the other countries that I would visit.
When I had to buy the plane tickets an idea came flooding back to me from when I was 18 – to ride a 125cc motorbike, and go to Thailand. Going to Vietnam by bike was not possible at that point as I only had 2 months’ holidays but what about on the way back to France???
When I saw Hellen’s work for ASF ( Architecture Sans Frontières) it reminded me of M. Perez ‘s class that we had in first year. He had observed the architecture somewhere in the Himalayas: the logic behind the form, materials, positioning. I thought that was a brilliant class – understanding how architecture can be the answer to environmental conditions. This way of thinking really went against postmodern architecture which seemed to produce only objects, art pieces which stood out as works of art but failed to blend in with their surroundings. This was already the case with international architecture.
As soon as I started thinking about it it dawned on me that there was probably a huge variety of different architecture between Hanoi and Toulouse. So I asked myself if I could mix both ideas – a motorbike trip and architectural study.
I went straight away to speak about that idea to Hellen because a project like that could interest him. It didn’t take long for him to consider the pros and cons and to be part of it.
In a world that is becoming ever more connected through globalization, being open minded is a must. As architects we have and will have an important role in the future. We design houses, neighborhoods, cities and so our countries. Therefore we shouldn’t be narrow minded and consider architecture as one universal model as this disregards external environments and other variable factors thus producing designs devoid of context.
The goal is to drive from Hanoi to Toulouse on these motorbikes going through around twenty countries with the eye of an architecture student. We will discover other ways of life and other ways to build through which we will observe where and how people live outside of our « civilised » countries and therefore think about architecture on a global scale.
Another aim is to see how people build without money. We will observe how people build in many ways using natural resources depending on their cultures, religion and climate.
What are we looking for by taking this journey?
First a general knowledge about all those countries that we don’t know. Second of all being even more open minded in a time when the world is teeming with nationalist parties. The extreme right party in France, the neo-nazis in Germany and in Eastern Europe, the Donald Trump presidential candidacy…
Travel to check out how people live, what their costumes are, and how they fill their cities.
Being interested by something different. Not by the international architecture that we can see in every magazine and which is taught in every school. Going into very poor countries and seeing how they produce architecture with almost nothing.
The world is going through an ecological revolution. What are the lesson that we can get from their resourcefulness in architecture and from these countries local architecture that is so different from ours?
Just before leaving for Vietnam we talked about the project with several teachers in the Architecture school of Toulouse (M. Estevez and Mme. Zarcos) who were really interested in the idea. Then there were two of us and with the support of our teachers. We spent the whole year from that point on preparing the project., which route, motorbike, funding, partners, the type of analysis to do, what kind of specification sheets to analyze houses.
After several meetings we got the approval from the administration of our school to carry out the project between July 2016 and January 2017. We will be back in France for the final presentation of the 9th semester. We’ll be presenting our log book with the houses’ specification sheets.
We haven’t planned a precise route for different reasons. First, it would take too long to plan everything. Second of all, we kind of want to go with the flow, and for people to tell us about different places. So our route could change depending on the people we meet and the contacts we get. But we’ll go through these countries:
Laos – Thailand – Myanmar – Bangladesh – India – Nepal – India – United Arab Emirates – Iran
Azerbaijan – Armenia – Georgia – Romania – Serbia – Bosnia – Croatia – Slovenia – Italy
Q: Since I left France in August 2015 I have had the chance to visit a few countries in Asia. All those countries are very different from what I knew. It gave me a good example of the architectural diversity that we will be able to see, especially in the countryside where the traditional architecture is more present. It made me realize the amount of work that we will have to do.
In November I traveled with a friend of mine, Victorien, by motorbike through Vietnam. We went from north to south, Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh. This experience allowed me to think about the logistical questions of a trip like that. 2500km by bike, through sunshine, rain, hot and cold temperatures, driving by night – all of these were good lessons in thinking about what we should have brought with us but that we didn’t.
The goal of that trip was not architectural at all but I was very curious about what I was seeing. I developed the bases of an analytical protocol to prepare our study. We could see the architecture changing from one region to an other. So what was the best way to record those changes? What made an interesting house? …
H: I’ve had, for my part, the chance to carry out several studies of housing in France and abroad, including 2 missions for ASF (Architecte Sans Frontière) in Toulouse. We went to meet inhabitants, to see unusual houses, to carry out specification sheets. During my second mission we focused on self-built houses. I also went to Varna in Bulgaria during my master 1. During this workshop we met the suburban inhabitants of the city to search and understand the relationship between suburbans houses and cultivated fields.
This project is a continuity of the work I’ve been doing with Architecte Sans Frontière for three years.
Anti Lovag – Buble House
Nicolas Eydoux – Underground container house
Virginie Farges – Yourtes
It was decided to analyze these houses in an easy yet significant way. We will use a strictly scientific method to compare these houses based on climate, culture, religion, natural resources and construction techniques. Moreover we will use a sensitive approach taking into account light, atmosphere, feelings, space and the result it has on neighborhoods, inhabitants and houses.
With a specific protocol and the use of photography, perspective, observations, interviews and personal reflections we can carry out a detailed comparison.
We will carry out this study during our 5th year of University. Over one semester we will drive through two continents studying the diverse range of houses that we will encounter. Following this our teachers in France will aid us to produce specification sheets for the houses we analyze.
From that we will run an exhibition, publication and share our work with as many people as possible.
We will also record our journey through this website through which friends, family, and partners can follow our journey.
To give you an idea of what we do and produce here are a few documents from our first anlaysis. This is the house we analysed in Mai Chau in Vietnam.
The house analysed
Environnement near by
Technical detail of the roof
Prior project that inspired us
MADE IN TOKYO – ATELIER BOW WOW :
This book has been thought of as a guide to discover and understand the urban style of Tokyo where the authors asked themselves « What is Made in Tokyo ? ». To answer this question they explored Tokyo by walking, cycling, driving, and public transportation thus realizing their aim.
BOURBOUZE ET GRAINDORGE
This project was conducted by two french architects and is a collection of the the Mediterranean coast’s architecture. It is a journey from the strait of Gibraltar to the strait of Dardanelles and the aim was to observe this overbuilt coast.