TOWN OF ART, AND ART OF THE TOWN
What is Agora’s purpose?
Agora harbours a desire to give the general public access to the actors of the urban scene with three objectives. First of all, to open up debate on the big issues that arise across the European metropolitan areas. Then, we want to become a laboratory of ideas that can help town planners and those who have influence, including real estate developers. In the context of Bordeaux’s expansion, the latter often feel obliged to par- ticipate in financing the event, but everyone expresses a great sense of enrichment from this cultural exchange afterwards. Finally, we want to promote the Bordeaux project.
What is the theme of this 7th edition?
As a one-off, we waited three years since the last edition instead of the normal two, as we wanted to coincide it with the marquee event that is symbolic of the development of the city: the arrival of the LGV. Our theme this time is the metropolitan landscape, as such, “landcape” has become the theme for all of the cultural events that will be on. As for our commissioner general, that is the landscape architect Bas Smets and his exhibition is called ‘paysage augmenté’ (“heightened landscape”).
What exactly do you mean by landscape?
In Europe, there is no more remaining nature that has been left untouched by human nature. The definition of the landscape has become eminently cultural. It is an ensemble of representations that are the fruit of many different perspectives. We have welcomed the diversification of our theme on a bordelais scale, we asked several photographers and filmmakers to work on the same areas. They all came back with a different city. For some, the focus was on the people
In attracting a large crowd- 55,000 for the previous edition- the biennial Agora showed that it has become a major gathering for the key European figures in urbanism. We met with the organiser of Agora, Michelle Laruë Charlus, who also happens to be the managing director of urban planning at Bordeaux Métropole.
who live here, others focused on the landscape, and others put an emphasis on movement, be it through physical movements or the change in the weather and the seasons. However, it’s more than that; the theme of landscape is essential at a time when man and geography must live in harmony. In the face of sustainable development and climate change, we now know that there is no technique that can solve everything. We have to try to counteract it but that will not be enough; we also have to adapt. The landscape, through the global reach of everything that it entails, is an essential instrument.
You have said that there is also an after-effect of each edition?
Certainly, at least on a local scale. For example, the debates on millionnaire metropolitan areas have created a political consensus locally to reach a certain population level, the edition on heritage and the work of Marc Barani allowed us to emphasise the decisive character of traces, the only heritage which runs across all time periods, and here we specifically looked at the role of the waterways that have so importantly shaped the development of the city. I can not say what we will draw from this edition, but I hope to see a new urban project that will see us in 2050 in a digital world that takes into account the urban life around the great ring road while paying attention to the small communes on the periphery of the city.
How do you organise this event every other year?
Everything that we say and show in the Agora is the result of a lot of work, but it is also an animated and fun gathering. In Hangar 14, the exhibitions will have three subjects: urban agriculture, the urban planning of the sprawl into the surrounding countryside, and design with the fabrication of objects in the digital era. There will be a lot of models concerning the Bordeaux project, films on the waterways, the Ambès peninsula, the green delta of Bègles, a kaleidoscope of the metropolitan area and fun spaces for the family, debates of course, terraces In the city there will be numerous exhibitions: at the Submarine Base, the Town Hall, the Maison éco-citoyenne, le 308, the gated walls of the Jardin public, the miroir d’eau, Station Ausone, St Rémi's Church, galerie Marengo And a surprise that will cover 1 km of the quays, a party at Bassins à flot, a 'white night' between the CAPC (contemporary art centre) and le tri postal in Armagnac with Rockschool Barbey. The Institut Magrez is holding an exhibition, Portzamparc, Arc-en-rêve which presents the landscapists of Topotek. Now, professionals and those who are simply curious don’t just come for Agora then leave, they put it firmly in the calendar and take the time to enjoy what is on offer and explore the area.