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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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