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In january 2020 LAN founded its research lab, dedicated to architecture and reality.

Architecture is the art of transforming reality. Determined by its history and its culture, by the objects it analyzes, the methods it adopts and by the situations in which it intervenes, architecture is also a determining factor in itself: it is a material, circumstantial and cultural contribution to the changes in the world. Architecture acts on the real as much as reality acts on architecture. This reciprocity is the object of study of the research lab, dedicated to architecture and reality.

The lab is complementary to the studio, and aims to gather and recapitulate the periods of discovery and invention, of intuition and reconciliation, of questions, of problematization, of encounter and exchange that make up the design process of the project. Its objective is to solidify these reflexive movements through a multifaceted theoretical output: lectures, publications, exhibitions, teaching.

The research focuses along three trajectories: architecture as discipline, architecture as artifact and architecture as representation. Our age is one of complexity and uncertainty, one that questions the definition and the material dimension of architecture – from the building to collectivity, from public space to territory.

What is the future of the city? What are the spaces of tomorrow? What tools do we need to design for the present? These are questions that call on architecture as a force for investigating, understanding and sharing reality.

The laboratory team is multidisciplinary, made up of architectural researchers, practicing architects, translators, graphic designers, and artists. The formulation and exploration of the research hypotheses is carried out with architectural means. Open to the academic world, the lab often also calls on outside figures: philosophers, sociologists, political scientists, geographers, biologists…

The lab contributes to the studio’s approach in its projects through introspection and anticipation, while the projects, inversely, contribute to the societal and theoretical interrogations of the research lab.

Lan Researchlab3

What is the future of the city?

Faced with new physical, social, ecological and sanitary challenges posed today by cities, it has become urgent to make a radical break with development according to zoning or the accumulation of solitary objects. The criteria of spatial organization of our urbanized territories are still too closely related to planning, despite the observation that the city as a plan follows the dream of an ideal city, existing outside of reality.

In the many new districts built throughout Europe over the past twenty years, many interesting buildings follow one another and coexist while failing to either create a unique identity for the district or integrate that of their surroundings.

What is called into question today isn’t our aptitude for building and responding to various quantitative mandates, but our capacity for “city making” and “sense making.”

“City making” is above all a question of basic equilibriums: the equilibrium between density and viability, between nature and construction, between permanence and resilience, between sobriety and diversity, between identity and universality, intensity and welcoming, attractiveness and inclusiveness…

Like Joël de Rosnay, who in 1975 called for the definition of a new tool for observing and understanding the infinitely complex, it seems appropriate to us to develop a tool for the making of cities, simultaneously conceptual, methodological and operational, that allows for the realization of these different values and that responds to this need for “city making.”

By studying different historical moments of architecture and the city, this line of research aims to map urban situations and systems, presenting a unique response to the challenges of the city of tomorrow.

Initiated in 2017, the research into these conditions of permanence of European cities seeks to investigate individual and specific cases in order to distill useful lessons in city-making for future application.

This a pragmatic historical approach: analyzing yesterday’s models with the questions of tomorrow, in order to potentially invent new ones.

What are the spaces of tomorrow?

Architecture is founded on programs built on the insights of past experiences. How, then, to meet the current needs of society, or to anticipate its future needs? In contrast to the functional idea of a singular use of space, the present requires a more nuanced approach. The history of the architectural typology was built on the differentiation of types according to program, whereas today’s research focuses on a temporal approach to type, a sustainable approach – a form of research, that is, that opens the type up to adaptability, flexibility or even reversibility.

Typology is a modern tool that must be adapted to the needs of our time. It is a question of going beyond its purely functional meaning in order to conceive of spaces more open to the indeterminate.

The laboratory has been working on these questions for several years. Whether based on types of facilities such as the theater, the prison or the court, or on types of activities, of offices or of housing, the approach is consistently first of all analytical. It is about understanding how architecture met a precise societal need over time, analyzing the various types of spatial devices invented by architects to meet the same need. Architecture is an art that has spanned the ages; it is important to situate the problems of the contemporary within this long timeframe. Each problem has its history.

The question of housing is possibly that which generates the most expectations today: how to take into account the fragmentation of residential development, the multicultural nature of society, the evolutions of the family unity, the impact of the current health crisis… ?

The typology is an indicator of the evolution of housing, it is one of the architect’s tools for contributing to the well-being of the occupant, and like any tool it can be improved. The lockdown only reinforced this idea.

Tools for an uncertain world

Between the subprime crisis, tsunamis, giant fires and epidemics, the beginning of this century shifts the stakes of architecture. Symbol of stability and permanence, the art of building must now deal with an unpredictable future. If the twentieth century was the century of prediction, the twenty-first will be the century of indeterminacy.

To turn this generalized state of uncertainty into an project opportunity, we need to observe, describe and understand a complex, heterogeneous and contradictory world. This state of reality requires from those who transform it new aptitudes and capacities to think together about previously dissociated conceptions of the world.

By exploring paradoxes of the architectural discipline, we turn our research into an attempt at a complex reconciliation. Paradox is this logical tool which allows us to think together about realities, appearances, opposites.

This general theory exercise leads us to rethink the vocabulary of architecture. How to reflect on the meaning of architecture today with the words of yesterday? To respond, we must question the modern glossary.

Thus, we have chosen to work on pairs of words which, put in tension, express a paradox. These pairs of words engage contradictory but concrete ideas on the discipline, creation in general and its relation to reality: Form / Indetermination, Limit / Thickness, Legacy / Transformation, Ensemble / Autonomy, Representation / Manipulation, Technique / Disappearance, Memory / Amnesia, Risk / Responsibility, Beauty / Truth.

The written description is essential but the question of the graphic representation is just as central in our project. If the representation is always the work of an author, if it is a reconstruction of reality, then the representation is an affirmation, it must allow the synthesis and the going beyond, the analysis and the project, the investigation and the transmission.

The lab draws on the agency’s experience in experimentation and modeling. In the same way that drawing and making model are integral parts of the architectural process, the laboratory bases its research on an exploratory design practice.