Du 4 au 7 juillet a eu lieu le séminaire « Architecture and Tourism. Fictions, simulacra, virtualities » à l’Université Pantheon Sorbonne, à Paris.
Le jeudi 6 juillet, à 11h, Caterina Franco a présenté son travail intitulé « Between lieu-image and lieu-réel. The construction of La Plagne ski resorts by Michel Bezançon (1960-1980) », durant la session 5 : Production ans transformation of architecture for tourism.
Contrairement à ce que l’on croit naïvement, le touriste ne recherche pas des lieux nouveaux à découvrir mais des lieux «réels» qui n’ont d’existence que par leur nom sur une carte ; il recherche des lieux-images qui sont localisés dans son esprit, qui habitent ou hantent son imagination. Dans et par le lieu réel, il projettera le lieu-image produit dans sa culture d’origine et il tentera de diminuer la «distance» entre le lieu réel et le lieu-image. (Raffestin, 1986)
The proposed contribution inquires the process of construction of the so-called lieu-image on a real site, from the perspective of the architect engaged in the construction of a touristic settlement.
The object of study is the touristic landscape generated after World War II in the highlands of the French Italian Alps. In fact, between the 1960s and the 1970s new cities for leisure have been built in place of pastures. It has been an occasion for architects to test not only new architectonic ideas but also models of urban planning (De Rossi, 2006). In a recent international conference, entitled: Architecture for leisure in post-war Europe, 1945-1989, Hilde Heynen (2012) emphasizes the interest to study this period of “anxious modernism”, (Goldhagen, Legault, 2000) in which architecture was asked to give a shape to the new spaces and facilities for leisure, in a moment when it wasn’t itself able to provide prompt answers.
Referring to the evolution of the architectonic style of the ski resorts, some French scholars have recently theorized the rise and fall of the modernist utopia in the mountains, with a course that is similar to the destiny of the grands ensembles in the French cities. (Wozniak, 2004). They identify a breaking point in the beginning of 1970s, when a renewed interest for the natural environment and the traditional alpine construction provoke a change in tourist taste and in the production of architects, that came back to the image of the village retrouvé (Lyon Caen, 2014).
The story of the construction of La Plagne Ski resorts in Savoy by Michel Bezançon is a paradigmatic case to identify this evolution: inspired by the lecture of Joffre Dumazedier’s Vers une civilization du loisir? (1962) and trying to respond to different tourists’ tastes, the architect moves from the model of functional city in the designing of La Plagne Centre (1961) to the megastructural utopia of Aime 2000 (1969-1970), a sort of unité d’habitation with a compact and vertical distribution of services and dwellings. In 1972, then, he creates Plagne Village using the image of the ancient village.
At the same time, a research in the archives of the architect and of the SEATM, a government institution that financed and guided the project, shows how the idea of the architect continuously faces the geo-morphological, environmental and economic features of the site. In the case of La Plagne Centre, for example, the existence of an ancient mine underground obliges the architect to transform his original idea. Using drawing and cartography as a tool to work on the archival documents, the contribution will thus demonstrate how the design of La Plagne is not the result of a purely formal research, but an attempt to integrate an innovative idea of city with the critical issues of the mountain landscape. Bezançon himself, refers to his project for La Plagne Centre as «realisée par approximations successives» (Révil, 2011). Mountain thus works as a tasting ground that helps architects in becoming conscious of the nature of the site, not only as a neutral support for the project but as complex reality, result of the layering of different elements.