Park Life

Oct 16 - 2019

Cabinet de Lecture Fête du Fleuve June–November 2019, Jardin Public 

At first sight a large shed in the park, the timber box designed by Konstantin Grcic nods to the 18th and 19th century Cabinet de Lecture or reading room and is part of the City of Bordeaux Cultural Season dedicated to Freedom.

The earlier reading rooms were not free but made access to books, papers and periodicals possible for a small fee at time when print was expensive and exclusive, opening up conversation and learning in a public place. This one has pinned texts on the freedom theme, and hosts weekly episodes of Aurélien Bellanger’s summer novel.

Also like the forerunner this cabinet gives shelter; the original was a place of warmth, light and relative comfort open all day and into the evening, the modern version has a seat in the shade.

Their heads are uncovered and their hair too is exposed, in all its darkness and sexuality. They wear lipstick, red, outlining the damp cavities of their mouths, like scrawls on a washroom wall, of the time before. I stop walking. Ofglen stops beside me and I know that she too cannot take her eyes off these women. We are fascinated, but also repelled. They seem undressed. It has taken so little time to change our minds, about things like this.

Then I think: I used to dress like that. That was freedom. Westernized, they used to call it.

The Japanese tourists come towards us, twittering, and we turn our heads away too late: our faces have been seen.

Margaret Atwood The Handmaid's Tale, 1985

, , ,

Reading Room parc Reading Room visitor Reading room doors open

Simple Luxe

Sep 29 - 2019

Grand Parc: Cheap is more

Employing their trademark luxury in simplicity, or cheap-is-more, Lacaton & Vassal have revived an unloved block in Bordeaux by changing its face and restoring interiors: a fast, low budget scheme with no displacement and minimal waste or environmental impact.

Original facades have been replaced with a new layer of winter garden providing an impressive public front, more internal space, improved energy efficiency and glorious views across the city from each apartment. In total 530 flats were refurbished in 12 to 16 days, at around €50,000 per unit, roughly half as much as a new-build scheme.

Compare and contrast with the typical approach in London where unfashionable blocks on large areas of green space are seen not as homes to be improved, but opportunities for private profit. Elephant and Castle is a case in point with the Heygate and Aylesbury estates razed, communities split and residents ‘relocated’ for dense blocks with minimum so-called affordable rents.

Travelling in Europe I am struck by the difference in attitude to building and managing urban communities. In France and Spain there is a positive commitment to making the city liveable, with open spaces, modern markets, small scale industry, trams and cycleways fully integrated with commerce and civic activity. In the UK profit rules, with no widely-heard public debate on the value or relevance of the developer-led built environment, and little room for the kind of clear design-thinking exhibited at Grand Parc.

UK, could do better, 



Grand Parc before, after, winter gardens

Aylesbury Estate SE17 demolition



, , , ,

Grand Parc before Grand Parc after Grand Parc winter gardens Heygate SE17