Atelier d'architecture autogérée (aaa - Studio for Self-managed Architecture) is a practice based in Paris co-founded by architects, Constantin Petcou and Doina Petrescu in 2001. aaa acts as a platform for collaborative research and action on the city and much of their work is carried out with other specialists, artists, researchers and institutional partners such as universities, arts organisations and NGOs, as well as the eventual users of their spaces. Whilst the founding members of aaa remain, the practice operates as a collaborative network that forms around each project.
aaa's projects are experiments in the temporary reuse of leftover urban space through the setting up of an enabling infrastructure that is slowly taken over by local residents and transformed into self-managed spaces. Ecobox consists of a series of gardens made from recycled materials, in the La Chapelle area of northern Paris, for which they also produced a number of mobile furniture elements working with students and designers. These included cooking, media and workshop stations that can be moved around and out of the garden as needed. Over the five years (2001 - 2006) that aaa were actively involved in its day-to-day running, Ecobox became a venue for cultural, social and economic activities, initiated by them and local residents; for example, Stalker/Osservatorio Nomade organised a workshop and installation as part of their collaborative project 'Via Egnatia', whilst a group of residents ran a monthly market and others set up a small food business making use of the cooking module. It is at the level of this activation of social interest and action that AAA's practice is most successful; they act as curators and enablers whilst at the same time leaving enough room for others to take over responsibility, to the point that residents campaigned for another site when the garden was finally evicted from its original location.
Their most recent project, Passage 56, is the transformation of a disused passageway, located in a Parisian neighbourhood noted for its density and cultural diversity, into a productive garden that minimises its ecological footprint through recycling, composting and use of solar panels. By means of a continuous participative process, the project was drawn up and constructed with minimal cost, using recycled materials collected by the residents themselves. It was carried out in collaboration with a local organisation running youth training programmes in eco-construction and was partly commissioned by local government, fulfilling one of aaa's stated aims to influence local policy towards the reuse and development of leftover spaces in the city. The Passage 56 project reinforces the idea that public space does not need to culminate in the idea of the physical construction of a designed object but is continuously developed as a social, cultural and political production. Here, the client does not precede the intervention but gradually emerges in the group of people who manage it, offering proof that everyday ecological practice can transform present spatial and social relations in a dense and culturally diverse metropolis.
AAA and PEPRAV (eds.), UrbanACT (Montrouge: Moutot Imprimeurs, 2007).
Peter Blundell Jones, Doina Petrescu and Jeremy Till (eds.), Architecture and Participation (Abingdon: Spon Press, 2007).
Constantin Petcou and Doina Petrescu, 'Au Rez de Chausee de la Ville', Multitudes, 2005, http://multitudes.samizdat.net/Multitudes-20-Spring-2005.html.
Doina Petrescu, 'How to make a community as well as the space for it', Re-public: Reimagining Democracy, 2007, http://www.re-public.gr/en/?p=60 [accessed 10 May 2010].
Doina Petrescu (ed.), Altering Practices: Feminist Politics and Poetics of Space (London: Routledge, 2007).
'Platforme Européene de Recherche et d'Action sur la Ville / European Platform for Research and Action on the City', www.peprav.net [accessed 10 May 2010].
Sebastian Niemann, 'AAA', Architecture d'Aujourd'hui, 2007.
Ruth Morrow, 'ECObox. Mobile devices and urban tactics', Domus, (2007): 50-53.
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