Shortly after the death of Le Corbusier, fifty years ago, the Circle of Architectural Studies awarded its price to three teams: the Atelier de Montrouge, the group of Salier Courtois, Lajus, Sadirac and Atelier d’urbanisme et d’architecture (AUA). The latter is particularly distinguished by its multidisciplinary nature, for it was the first to join architects, decorators, engineers, urban planners and sociologists around a common project, while maintaining a close relationship with politics and culture.
Through both a theme-based and chronological journey, the multifaceted work of the Atelier AUA is presented with models, drawings, photographs, publications, films and full-scale objects, elements from the buildings and furniture.
“Une architecture de l’engagement: L’AUA (1960-1985)”
October 30 – February 29, 2016
Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine
Galerie d’architecture moderne et contemporaine
1 Place du Trocadéro et du 11 Novembre
Both a collective project, a shared workspace, and a family of sorts, the AUA was, in a way, a sort of phalanstery, a utopian construction. Despite the notoriety of some of their works, such as the district of the Harlequin in Grenoble, the administrative center of Pantin, and many cultural and sports buildings which remain monuments among the cities well beyond the Paris region, the production of this influential group remains fully undiscovered.
Bringing together several generations of designers from diverse disciplinary and geographical origins, the Workshop developed its activity for 25 years, in France which was modernizing itself and experiencing intense political issues – the war in Algeria in the term of François Mitterrand. Banned from major urban centers for a long time, it operated in suburban areas and in the early new towns in a permanently switching from the initiatives of local governments to state programs.
Commitment, seen by Jean-Paul Sartre as an active participation in history marked all the actions of the AUA. Their attitude ran through all the areas where the Atelier had taken action: housing and public facilities, starting with theater; urban planning, especially in the suburbs, a pioneering concern for landscape; the confrontation with the technical policies in the era of open industrialization and innovative models. The Workshop was also among the pioneers of a new professional practice based on cooperation, dialogue and sharing, which the twelve Forums celebrated (from 1962 to 1966) attest, among other publications encouraged by members of the AUA. The unquestionable diversity of architectural critique and essays, seen in the great differences among Jacques Kalisz and Henri Ciriani, is however joined together by a common ground of basic principles, such as loyalty to the ideas of the modern movement, a persistent enthusiasm for teamwork with the aim of multidisciplinarity, insistence on the constructive dimension of architecture and a close attention to the relationship between the isolated building and the urban fabric.
Between 1960 – the date of the founding of the Workshop by urbanist Jacques Allégret, and the affirmation of individual trajectories of its members in the mid-1980s, dozens of projects and achievements make up a body of work built on a dialogue between builders and designers.
These works are part of French history, yet at the same time taking place in a Europe where neorealism and neo-brutalism, small architecture journals like Forum, related to the projects by Team 10 —and in which the Brazilian contribution, to which some members of the AUA are particularly sensitive, is palpable— are beginning to be popular.
More than an exhaustive display of the works of a group over time, the exhibition conceived by Jean-Louis Cohen and Vanessa Grossman focuses on the iconic projects and buildings. This central body of its production is put in perspective by evoking the most important eras of the workshop – the training of its members, their first meetings, their works together, their dispersion and their former experience in the workshop as highlights in the broader evolution of French architectural culture.