Patrick Bouchain is a French architect who designs situations as much as he designs buildings, taking on a number of other roles including that of developer, political advisor, site manager, fundraiser and performer. Most of his projects begin with establishing a network of interested people, collaborators, residents, local government officials, neighbourhood groups etc. Once this network is in place, the site is activated socially, usually through opening a small space that functions as a restaurant, site office and consultation area where passers-by and interested people can find out about the project, give their views, or simply watch a film. This initial phase creates relationships between the architects, builders and local people and creates uses for the site before anything permanent is built. Through such an approach Bouchain's projects are sustainable in the real sense of the word, ensuring that what is finally constructed is appropriate and useful for the site and makes good use of resources. Many of the projects are on an urban scale and include the reuse and refurbishments of old industrial buildings through minimum intervention.
With a background in theatre, circuses and urban festivals Bouchain approaches architecture as event, creating maximum impact through a mixture of illusion, clever use of materials and innovative programming. Collaborations play a large role in this type of alternative urban planning, Bouchain has worked with the artists Daniel Buren and Claes Oldenburg. On another occasion he invited Malian builders to construct an acoustic barrier from oil barrels; wherever possible, his projects employ a mixture of specialists rather than a single contractor.
Bouchain curated the 2006 French pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale; rather than following the standard exhibition format of words and images, the social nature of architecture was emphasised. The group Exyzt were invited to inhabit the pavilion, constructing a scaffold-like structure inside and living in it for the duration of the biennale. The space included DJ and design studio, kitchen and sauna, underlining the fact of architecture as occupation rather than built object. This alternative approach foregrounds the role of informal networks, social space, and processes in architecture and has much in common with other European practices such as Atelier d'Architecture Autogérée, City Mine(d), Raumlabor and of course the group that Bouchain brought to international attention, Exyzt.
Patrick Bouchain and Isabelle Chaise, 'Interview: Patrick Bouchain', Blueprint (London), 2009, 38-39, 41-42.
Karine Dana, 'The Raw and the Cooked', World Architecture, 2001, 54-59.
Robin Wilson, 'Le Channel, Calais [France]', Blueprint (London), 2007, 64-65, 67-70.
'École foraine, Saint-Jacques-de-la-Lande, Ille-et-Vilaine = School, Saint-Jacques-de-la-Lande, Ille-et-Vilaine: Patrick Bouchain architecte', Architecture d'Aujourd'hui, 2006, 56-57.
'Patrick Bouchain: For a cultural, scientific and joint approach towards architecture', CSTB, 2008, http://www.cstb.fr/actualites/english-webzine [accessed 16 March 2010].
'Patrick Bouchain and Loïc Julienne', Global Award for Sustainable Architecture, http://www.global-award.org/images/monographs/2009/Patrick_Bouchain/content.htm [accessed 16 March 2010].
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