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For the MCH’s 2017 edition, Anne Lacaton’s workshop will work around the FRAC’s neighborhood in Dunkirk’s harbor and surrounded by the sea. The huge site around the FRAC is a former industrial site which was mostly dismantled in the 80’s.

The workshop will be hosted by the FRAC (Contemporary Art Center), designed by Lacaton & Vassal and built in 2013 after reusing a former assembly shed from an existing shipyard, where the final pieces of the boats where assembled together.

A new residential masterplan was designed for this area, lacking better attention to its very special location and its landscape qualities. Some housing buildings have already been built, but the development of this new neighborhood progresses slowly, and there are still large empty plots, on which some activity still remains.

We will work to set a strategy of densification, providing better use for the unused land, filling and infiltrating the voids, developing mixed-use programs and open structures that could offer spaces for housing and other activities for public use. As a sole given rule, we will assume that every existing building still in use or re-usable, should be kept.

Around the FRAC site, this question is opened to a very large concept of housing, which is not specially responding to a “market product”, intended for a traditional middle class family, but, beyond, rethink the principles of the space for living and how housing is designed: how to create living conditions (architectural, spatial, technical, sustainable,…) such that a very large and varied number of people can find the space for living that they could appropriate. From a basic housing "typology" (living room + bedrooms) to other types: living & working, shared apartments, short term occupancy, multi-generational housing, and consequently, families of refugees as well.




The workshop will focus on urban housing conditions. The quality of the housing must be based on the idea of the well-being (pleasure), the variety of spaces and atmospheres, a conception of the comfort other than the one normalized by standards, calculations, models. Dwellings produced today are neither generous, nor spacious and are no longer adapted to the evolution and to the need or the wishes of the contemporary families. Standards mostly lead to build dwellings giving the minimal surfaces and standardize housing, spaces, plans, and even comfort. The comfort normative is now much more often determined by rules and calculations, by the performance of technology, estimated through a grid of criteria, by a financial profitability. Housing has become a product, while it should be first of all a question for the sensations and quality of life.

The minimum space does not correspond to the contemporary way of life any more, and neither to what the inhabitants expects from the space for everyday life. Minimum space is not a sustainable concept. The house has to offer spaces with different characteristics and different atmospheres: the "classic" spaces and also other spaces free of any defined functions and totally appropriable. The space to be lived must be generous, comfortable, appropriable, flexible and  economic. A generous space is a necessary luxury. How to give more space without increasing the cost? How to enlarge significantly the usable space?. It is necessary to invent new housing typologies to develop: density, nearness, mixed use, quality, luxury and pleasure. The densification and the quality of life are not opposites, nor incompatible issues.

It is necessary to invent new housing conditions, giving the inhabitants again an attractive idea of living collectively in a denser city, by creating an architecture that reconciles the need of individuality and privacy, -often expressed by the desire of a single house in a garden- with the collective need of density. Besides, collectivity and density become inescapable and reasonable for the future of cities, so to limit the infinite development of the urban territory. This is a basis for sustainability. Ecology, saving energy and natural resources cannot be only resolved by adding new technology or materials or new systems, stuck on the existing models. Its consequence should not be a closer, reduced, or a more protected or reinforced house. It should renew the way of living and introduce new forms and characters into housing spaces. This idea will not work if the inhabitant is not involved being even the main actor of this sustainability agenda. So the inhabitant must receive a plus, finding better conditions for his living space.




The workshop topic will emphasize on the optimal conditions to live in the city, in a public space, in the neighborhood, in collective space, with the close community, in the individual space. The city should provide exceptional quality of life by offering a large range of facilities, proximities, and pleasures, as well as a large variety of typologies to fit with different needs, expectations and ways of life.










To find good responses to these questions should lead to a sustainable life. How can the architects contribute to an evolution of the attitudes?

The exploration will be made from the scale of individual. It will not be a theoretical proposition.

It is about the feelings, the perception, the movement in a space, from a space to another one.

It means that the point of view is always from inside the situation out.

We will work in an accumulative process. The goal is not to produce a project, but a series of fragments, which all together will make a project, in the sense of a coherent proposition.

Intentions, positions, convictions, are essential to feed a project

Building an attitude, establish a statement, is a preliminary to the design of the project.



We will design the project by fragments, from images and situations. Images have always to be close, as if they were made from the inside, being within a situation, a space, an atmosphere, and showing how it is used, and always close to the subject, from the smallest to the largest. They will speak about individual space, about program, about life, about movement, about community space, about public space, about the city, about the relationship with the exterior, the sky, the city, the trees…about relationships between people.

These attentively observed and analyzed images, will become catalysts for the project, to define some architectural intentions. Used as space generators, the images become an instrument for research, and the project’s driving force.

Through simple operations of collage, accumulation, sampling, superposition, transformative addition, contamination, every image gains a new dimension and their accumulation generates sequences of spaces, atmospheres, journeys, and even stories, which can lay down the basis of the project.

Encouraging the construction of spaces from existing, heterogeneous situations brings the practice of architecture toward filmic composition and thus stimulates an altogether different manner of addressing the project that comes close to that of the filmmaker.

By means of the sequence of events, the filmmaker constructs spaces around the actor(s) and by means of the movement of the actor(s). Thus the filmmaker makes the details first — the (cinematic) "plans" — which, once assembled, constitute the film, as opposed to the architect, who makes the whole first and then deduces the details from it.

This active modus operandi places the importance on fragmentary thinking.





During the workshop, students are invited to address the following guidelines:

Work on urban housing conditions offering similar qualities of living conditions of an individual house with a garden in a suburb:  private access, relationship to outdoor spaces, undefined spaces, or relation between public-private. Houses should be simple, generous (radically different of the standards), affordable, intelligently built, pleasant, flexible, open to appropriation, plausible (possible for everybody), and the housing shall include a variety of typologies.

Design innovative housing "typologies", open to flexibility, to self intervention, adaptable to a wide range of inhabitants.

Create mixed use neighbourhood, providing different functions, private and public, different levels of facilities and public use.

‘Open building’ theory and ‘support & infill’ concepts will surely help achieve them and constitute interesting solutions to explore.

Support or infrastructure: involves the primary spatial organization of the structure, accesses, circulation, services. Represents what is more durable in a housing building and, and less open to change.

Infill: include all that is contingent and subject to more frequent transformation: partitions, fittings, interior finishes, individual mechanical equipment…



1- Global strategy on the general site, developed simultaneously on both scales:

. strategy on the site to develop a mixed use neighbourhood : living, working, services, facilities, public space.

. individual living conditions : housing, living space

FORMAT: sketches, diagrams, perspectives, floor plans and sections 1/500, 1xDINA1(4xA3) per group


2- Desirable spaces. Spaceboard

Pictures taken from other inhabited spaces, feelings atmospheres. These will be arranged in sequences and series, in the sense of moving horizontally, diagonally or vertically in the space. This set of images all together, will provide an atmosphere, and could guide us in a virtual tour, from one space of the house to another. This assembly will make a "Spaceboard" (relative to ‘storyboard’ used in cinema), and it will become a plausible program of spaces for the group project.

FORMAT: 1 sequence per team member, 1xDINA1(4xA3) per group


2- Basic Units. Living space

 Explanations about how much volume you have decided to offer to one family unit in your project, in terms of dimensions. This could be addressed through various geometrical representations, being cube the basic representation. Designing a housing unit, using the previous information of the atmosphere, and space qualities defined by the photos (1) and the potential of the basic volume (2). This unit shall show the occupation of the basic volume, with several expected and possible variations. (Minimum 1 per each member of the team) 

FORMAT: diagrams, floor plans, sections, axonometric views, images, collages, 1/100,1xDINA1 per group


4- Collective Organization:

Organization of units, comprising housing (in a multifamily complex) and other functions, including, infrastructure and infill. The size of the units is to be determined by the project.

FORMAT: floor plans and sections. 1/200, 1xDINA1(4xA3)per group




The workshop will be run in 2 phases: 3 days in Dunkirk in April + 2-3 days in Madrid in July.

Five groups of students shall be made in advance before he trip (4x3 students and 1x4 students), in order not to waste time during our short time in Dunkirk. We will be joined for the first three days by a class from the Lille’s School of Architecture: 20 students + 2 professors (Guislain His and Vincent Ducatez). The 5 groups of MCH students will be mixed with other 5 groups from Lille on Wednesday morning.



The first phase should be used to get in touch with the site, do a first analysis and to make a first draft and layout of each group project. These drafts will be developed during the second phase, held in Madrid for another 3 days. At the end of these 3 days (Friday morning) the students will present a synthesis of their observation, impressions, highlights about the topic and site, an approach of a possible strategy for the site, a first research of references. The format could be notes, a selection of photos, commented, diagrams and a set of panels where each group should answer to the following questions, using the given instructions about contents and formats:


A1.1: what makes the quality of life in the CITY?

Proximity, usage, services, density, distance, moving, 

A1.2: what makes the quality of life in a PUBLIC SPACE?

Square, street, park, museum, shopping mall, etc (exterior or interior space) 

A1.3: what makes the quality of life in INDIVIDUAL and COMMUNITY SPACE?

Pleasure, comfort, light, space, movement, Shared space : 2 neighbors, 4 neighbors, a building, etc


Day 0: Tuesday 4 April                                                                                                 

Afternoon:  arrival to Dunkerque

16:00: installation in the FRAC and guided visit of the exhibitions


Day 1: Wednesday 5 April

9:00 : arrival of the students of Lille

Presentation of the Workshop subject. Walk around the FRAC site. Site Visit

until 17:00: Group Work in studio             

17:00-… : walk of an amazing site and landscape between sea and harbor


Day 2: Thursday 6 April

9:00-11:30:        Group work in studio

11:30-14:30:       Lecture by Damien Antoni and discussion on the topic:  "Living in a camp" * 

14:30-18:00:       Group work in studio     (Lille students leave on Thursday evening)


Day 3: Friday 7 April

9:00-11:30:        Group work in studio. Madrid students only

11:30-14:00:       Presentation and critical session about the 3-days workshop production

End of Workshop’s Phase 1



Day 4:   Final development of proposals.

Day 5:   Presentation and final review to the  jury   18 :00-21:00



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