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An international student contest is being held for a series of three landmark new architectural installations at the Carrières du Boulonnais quarry in northern France (Deadline: 15 March)
The PRIMA competition, organised by Paris-based Atelier 37.2 on behalf of French minerals company Groupe CB, invites individuals or pairs of students to propose a permanent ‘micro-architectural work’ for the enormous industrial site which is located around 15km south of Calais. Concepts must harness raw materials such as stone, concrete, steel, and recycled concrete.
The call for proposals is free and open to all architecture schools in France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Each school may submit a maximum of five paired student projects. A total of 15 concepts will be shortlisted and three overall winners will be constructed in 2022.
According to the brief: ‘This competition is an invitation to explore micro architecture as a bridge between design, art and architecture. It offers an opportunity for students to experience all the phases of the architectural process from conception to construction and to work with professionals: with architects in the development phase and with construction firms in the building phase.
‘Students must conceive their micro-architectural projects around 3 materials – stone, concrete and steel – and may use only one of these materials, two, or all three. The PRIMA Prize offers participating students the chance to combine, just as many leading architects and plasticians do, the raw materials of a piece with its artistic intention, from the first sketches through to construction, thereby investing in those raw materials a real value in and of themselves.’
Located on the fringes of Ferques, the 500-hectare Carrières du Boulonnais quarry was created in the late nineteenth century and is now the largest single open-pit quarry in the country – producing around six million tonnes of limestone aggregates every year.
The PRIMA project aims to forge new links between emerging design talents and the aggregates industry through an ‘unprecedented art model built on the merging of clear artistic goals with an entrepreneurial strategy’. It is organised by Atelier 37.2, an emerging Paris-based practice which has constructed a variety of unique architectural installations in culturally-significant landscapes across Europe and two pavilions on the PRIMA site.
Participants must harness raw materials in their proposal and consider how their structure can be occupied as a form of ‘micro-architecture’ while also responding to important environmental issues raised by the ‘Anthropocene’ in which human activity has fundamentally changed life on earth.
The first edition of the competition, launched in late 2019, received 114 entries from 202 students representing 41 schools of architecture and design from 6 countries – France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, and the United Kingdom.
Winners of the 2021 call for concepts included Harmonie by Marion Conte and Olivier Roldès from ENSAP Bordeaux, Versus by Asmae El Baghdadi and Alexis Chichignoud from Ecole d’architecture de la ville et des territoires Paris Est, and L’outil jaune by Leon Kamp and Rik Jansen of Eindhoven University.
The competition is planned to be held every year for several years resulting in around 20-to-25 permanent installations being created on the site. Winning students, to be announced in March or April, will receive technical assistance from Atelier 37.2 and be invited to attend a residency on site to deliver their schemes.
Q&A with Nicolas Guiraud and Francesca Bonesio
The Atelier 37.2 co-founders discuss their ambitions for the competition
Why are you holding an international competition for micro-architecture installations for a new architectural sculpture park in Northern France?
The international PRIMA competition is the tool that will allow us to build, year after year, this architectural park. PRIMA will be the work of future generations of architects and designers.
The PRIMA prize offers students a chance to combine, just as many leading architects and sculptors do, the raw materials of a piece with its artistic intention, from the first sketches through to construction – thereby investing in those raw materials a real value in and of themselves.
The Groupe CB gravel pits and quarries today provide the raw materials that typically tend to disappear in any final architectural construction. Whether through the use of stone – in the form of gravel or rock – concrete, or steel; participants are invited to address this ‘disappearance’ through projects that highlight the texture, plasticity and beauty of the raw materials themselves.
What is your vision for the future architectural sculpture park, and what would you like to see in submissions to the competition?
The park reflects our vision of micro-architecture: a work of art on the frontiers of architecture and design, architecture as a minimal sculptural space, sculpture as a space to be occupied and function as artistic or transcendent experience that sets up a dialogue between the pavilion itself and the spectator-occupant. The scale of micro-architecture allows such a radical and pure approach. We – Atelier 37.2 – designed and built the first two pavilions of the PRIMA park. It was somehow a way to set a tone.
Over the years, several generations of future architects and designers are creating their own vision within the philosophy and the constraints of this competition. Through six editions – the 3rd one is running now and there are three more to come – this 500ha open-air park at the edge of the biggest French quarry will represent a cultural offer entirely financed by a local industry and open to public in a northern region of France where art and cultural resources are rare.
What role do you see this competition playing in the development of new local, international and underrepresented architectural and design talents, and helping to address the underrepresentation and engagement of many communities in our interpretation of the built environment?
PRIMA is a very promising pilot project in the advancement of both local and international architectural and urbanism culture. With its park and competition, PRIMA has created a unique ecosystem including international universities, the local industries in charge of the winning projects’ construction, Group CB with its 750 employees, and of course ourselves Atelier 37.2 overviewing the entire project since its origin.
Through every edition of this competition, future generations of architects and designer meet, talk, work and exchange with workers and local partners.
In September 2022, for the first time the park will open to the public, creating a real cultural offer deeply based on local industrial culture and resources.
Are there any recent similar competitions or projects, either locally or internationally, which have delivered impressive results?
The ecosystem of PRIMA is absolutely unique and so too is the use of a competition as the tool to build the park. While creating bridges between art/ architecture, universities, local industries and the general public – Group CB is not just a sponsor, but it leads through the foundation an innovative project in its local environment, from a cultural and social point of view. It gives to all of the public a new vision of their own environment and triggers a real curiosity towards architectural culture.
How do you see PRIMA projects evolving in the future and what competitions will you hold next?
PRIMA will last for four more years. The specifications of the competitions evolve every year, in terms of materiality (including only recycled low carbon concrete and materials made of waste in the future) and also in terms of constraints. We are doing this to promote a real diversity of works in the park itself.
In this project Atelier 37.2 has involved as an artists’ duo as well as a cultural engineering agency. 37.2 has different skills – in education, architecture, film, photography, writing and communication – that allow us to create the whole concept and organisation of PRIMA for an industry. We love creating our own micro-architecture as much as developing the students’ best projects.
In the future, we intend to develop more and more this artistic relation with the industry. When it is done with such visionary intention, art / architecture can be a very creative and efficient component of all kinds of industry. The project of creating a new park is also our work in progress.
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