PEOPLE – JACQUES FERRIER
IN TOWN TO SHARE HIS VISION OF A ‘ SENSUAL CITY’, GLOBALLY-RENOWNED ARCHITECT JACQUES FERRIER IS A MAN WITH A DREAM.
A prolific French architect in Kuala Lumpur to share his vision for a ‘sensual city’.
An Architectural addition to the Le French Festival 2017, Jacques Ferrier’s exhibition, “A Vision for the Sensual City” premiered on the 18th of May 2017 at White Box Publika, where it took centre stage until the 1st of June. The French architect has carved a name for himself throughout his prolific career, resulting in works on both home ground, as well as internationally. Notable works by the Jacques Ferrier Architecture Firm include The French Pavillion for the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, named “The Sensual City”, the Beijing International French school, the Airbus Delivery Centre in Toulouse, and French publisher Hachette’s headquarters in Vanves, France.
In Malaysia for the first time to speak at the Le French Festival 2017 and scheduled for lectures at University Malaya and Taylors College, Jacques nonetheless takes time to sit down with us.
Q: Tell us about why you chose Malaysia as a destination for the exhibition. How did it come together?
A: We were asked to have an exhibition in a museum in Shangai a year and a half ago, about my concept for the Sensual City. The exhibition was meant to be shown in the French Pavillion in the Shanghai Expo, a building that I designed in 2010. It has been transformed to M21, the trendy contemporary art museum in Shanghai. The idea was to produce an exhibition inspired by Marcel Duchamp, who has worked on the concept of cubism. We designed this exhibition as something that could be shipped, and could travel elsewhere.
The concept, in a way, is related to the way we design our buildings. When we have a question, we always try to find more than one answer. What about the container boxes? We turned them into part of the exhibition. And we were very lucky because the exhibition was able to travel due to people inviting us to different places. We were in Singapore in September, then Jakarta. So for me, I wanted to do Kuala Lumpur, since we were already in Southeast Asia.
Q: Tell us about your Sensual City concept.
A: The idea of Sensual City is a reaction after the 20th Century. We all know that today’s cities, including Kuala Lumpur, are shaped by the ideas of the great masters. I think that the designs have now been copied so many times that cities and architecture are without real quality. At the beginning, if you take an original design, obviously they are a piece of art, but fifty years, eighty years later, when it has been copied many many times, the quality fades. And because we’re so obsessed with functionality and modernity, it all has to be international and not look cold. In fact, we’ve cut architecture from context. And now, in this century, we have more and more cities, and they’re far bigger than those we had in the 20th century. We have to change the look of architecture to something more human, something more contextual. Something more informed by day, night, climate, seasons, and et cetera.
“We want to reconciliate architecture and technology with some human sensations that have been lost in today’s world.”
For me, a way to translate this simply is about senses. That is to say, that to be in a city is to experiment with all your senses, in a way that you have a good experience with your senses. To have the window open, to enjoy the fresh air and feel the night breeze, to listen to the noise of the city, to smell the spring, and the flowers. We want to reconciliate architecture and technology with some human sensations that have been lost in today’s world.
Q: So, that’s how you think the concept can benefit the cities of the world? Make sure every visitor can sense the city, and not just the room they live in?
A: Exactly. I think visitors and inhabitants of a city must be able to have a full experience of what life is, in the city. In big cities like Shanghai, Mumbai, and Kuala Lumpur, you’re going to spend 99% of your time inside a man-made environment. You have to make sure you don’t have pollution, and you want to see the sky. Many things come along with deciding to look at the sensations of people, and not to design from afar, but to design from inside the project. You start with a room, and then another room, then you get the flat, and another flat, and then you get the building. This is as opposed to doing it the other way around, where you make a building with a funny shape just to get something different.
Q: How do you think it’s possible to reconcile that to the problems we have today: sound pollution and air pollution?
A: If you consider a building at the very beginning, that this building is going to be climate friendly – and it’s quite a difficult task – you’ll be able to reduce its dependency on technical equipment, then you’ll be able to reduce pollution. We are delivering a public building in Normandy, France that is going to have 0% energy consumption year-round. And in Normandy, you have cold winters, you have reasonably warm summers, but this was taken on-board at the beginning, and we worked with our engineers to come up with solutions like solar panels. So, I think it’s up to us now, architects and industrial designers. People have to work together, people have to get rid of old boundaries – one of my mottos is to say that every building has to carry its own landscape.
Q: If you could see any one of your ideas or projects be immortalised forever, which one would it be?
A: Architects are nostalgic about monuments, because monuments are meant to be there forever. I think that the most interesting projects in architecture today are projects that are related to our daily lives. In this respect, I think no project should be designed to last forever. I think that if there is something to remain, from projects, books, essays, and sometimes teachings about the variety of senses – if it is an idea that could remain, it would be this, and I would be very happy.
Q: What’s your main goal as a designer?
A: Really, it would be to see this transformation, this holistic approach to building a city. We have extreme architecture when you talk about high rises. Architecture now is aimed to build iconic buildings. But I think we should consider that we have so many of these iconic buildings now, in the world cities. Now, can we move on to anything more exciting? Perhaps creating extraordinary atmosphere and ambiances in our daily lives?
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