02 X INTRODUCTION
“Microcosms” is a collective work which is based on different tools, references and definitions. Our approach seeks to consider the role of the imagination in the conception of cities.
The first part of our work consisted in creating new urban patterns that seek to disrupt a Belgian landscape characterised by its linearity and flatness. We decided to call these methods “microcosms”.
A “microcosm” functions as a world in miniature. This imaginary landscape differs from the lowlands of Liége in how it has emerged and how it has been excavated. It contains three autonomous worlds that perfectly represent the territory as a whole: The Oasis (water treatment basin), Destination Moon (military base), A Thousand Plateaus (extractive industries). The countryside has been shaped by humans for economic and military ends so today, it has a strong and singular identity. Off-putting as much as captivating, these “microcosms” are the keepers of novel imaginary frontiers and serve to allow a recontextualization of the Belgian landscape.
In order to highlight the architectural and urban potential of these landscapes, we have based our reflection on the philosophical concept of the ‘Sublime’. In general speech, the adjective “sublime” is usually associated with an image of perfection and beauty. But we have chosen to use another definition of the word. Edmund Burke was an 18th century philosopher who attempted to invert common thinking of what was considered beautiful: “Whatever is fitted in any sort to excite the ideas of pain, and danger, that is to say, whatever is in any sort terrible, or operates in a manner analogous to terror, is a source of the sublime”.
This, therefore, is the definition that characterises our strategy: to project the beautiful but stay close enough to verge on the terrible. In the same sense, our four architectural proposals contain the sensation of both escapism and isolation.
03 X DESCRIPTION
THE OASIS, Hospital. The Oasis, a water treatment facility, shows a human figure in waiting which we have chosen to represent a therapeutic approach to the mind and body. This “architecture-sculpture” in the Belgian landscape, which can be seen from afar, suggests the intimate space of an outpatient clinic or day hospital.
A THOUSAND PLATEAUS, The funeral center. A Thousand Plateaus, the industrial site extracting Dolomite at Namêche; is to be converted into a huge natural park that will accommodate a central funeral home, a cemetery with columbarium, as well as a chapel that provides entrance to the park. The whole complex is to be inserted and anchored in the limestone that surrounds it.
DESTINATION MOON, Casino. Destination Moon, today the Leopold fort in Diest, is an abandoned military site which we have decided to reshape into a casino. We have chosen to build this project between the two brick walls surrounding the main trench, which could be undone in time. This with the objective of maintaining its unique identity and timelessness.
DESTINATION MOON, Archives. Destination Moon, now the Battice fort, is situated in a beautiful place, on a headland without borders in the Belgian landscape. On this site, near to Germany and the Netherlands, public benefit and secret reserve intermingle to reveal, layer by layer, a huge, ribbed monolith.
It is by combining these four programmes that this dreamscape starts to take shape both from a poetic and a scientific perspective. The “sublime” has been at the heart of our approach. We have sought to implement it at every stage, from its conception up to the finishing touches.
As Gilles Deleuze wrote: “The sublime is an act of dissent, rather than an agreement; a contradiction between the necessities of reason and the power of imagination.”
05 X ABOUT
The “Microcosmes” collective brings together four young architects who have graduated from the Clermont-Ferrand School of Architecture. From our complicity was born the desire to continue this common journey and to bring up our diploma project. We are graduates of the EVAN master’s degree (Between City, Architecture and Nature), we have experienced different projects, from urban planning to architectural drawing. This process of different scales has enabled us to acquire a sensitive approach to territories, whether rural or urban. Their specificities led to the development of distinct programmes and projects, which allowed us, in prosaic or dreamlike approaches, to shape our architectural vision.
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