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The «fold’s childhood», a landscape sculpture

 Gilles Brusset

1. Public space as artwork

1.1. Art and urbanism

The Meyrin City Contemporary Art Fund (FACM) in Switzerland, in collaboration with the Planning Department and the Aeby Perneger & Associés Architects Office, responsible for the renovation and extension of the School of Boudines, launched in 2013 a call for applications for the realization of two artistic interventions integrated into the architecture (Kunst am bau) inside and outside. In the foyer of the aula, it is the reflections of Ursula Mumenthaler that have been retained. For outdoor use, it is Gilles Brusset's "childhood of the fold" project which was chosen to carry out the work over an area of 2,200 m2 located between the extracurricular building and the entrance hall Boudines' aula.

Figura 1. Escultura geográfica (©Binocle)
Figure 1: the geographical sculpture into the modern off site (©Binocle) 

1.1.1. A site without situation

Meyrin Park was built according to the principles of modern architecture, including that of the clean slate: The first act of the Meyrin-Parc project was therefore to level the small hill - or fold - which pre-existed (which presumably gave its name to the site: "Les Boudines"), in order to install the buildings in the efficient universal park of the Athens Charter. The urban spaces of Meyrin-parc are pedestrian, structured by the arrangement of buildings on stilts and paths crossing large expanses of lawns punctuated with groves. Two types of materials mainly qualify the existing soil surface: asphalt and turf. The built volumes of the School of the Boudines are in raw concrete and clearly delimit to the west and the north the site devolved to the project. Increased efficiency in the design and construction of housing (standardization) is often accompanied by a loss of perception of the site in geographical space. The flattening of the topography, ignorance of the past and the masking of horizons by the buildings lead to a generic space, off-site.

1.1.2. Art and civil engineering

The diversion of ordinary materials from roads and expressways to the benefit of a garden work of art has led to the appearance of extraordinary forms in the daily space.

Figuras 2 y 3. Formas extraordinarias en el espacio diario (©Pierre-yves Brunaud)     
Figures 2 and 3: extraordinary shapes in daily space (©Pierre-yves Brunaud) 

The black asphalt as background of the work, self-compacting sculptural material: Marrying the forms of the soil, its qualities of grain and light are revealed according to the positions of the observer and the atmospheric conditions: By contrast of the shades and the sun there is becomes white or yellow; wet it becomes mirror and reflects colors and lights of the sky.The aluminum border as frame of the work: In brilliant contrast, the aluminum edge allows the stop of the cast material on corrugated lines. The sensual asphalt: Ondulant, marrying the movements of the relief of its grained surface, the asphalt becomes sculpture. Convex and concave curvatures of the relief are revealed by the reception of the lights on the black color. The diversion of ordinary materials from roads and expressways to the benefit of a garden work of art has led to the appearance of extraordinary forms in the daily space.

Figura 4. Dos materiales: asfalto y césped
Figure 4: 2 matérials: asphalt + grass (©Binocle) 

Free sculpture: In plan, the formal curvature and folding system of the sculpture freely develops its dynamic undulations, completely independent of the formal orthogonal system of Meyrin - parc. The design of the aluminum border, sometimes in a straight line, sometimes in curved lines, articulates the two systems.

1.2. Art and landscape

Located between the park and the buildings, between architecture and landscape, the «fold’s childhood» questions the status of art in public space and landscape as a work of art. Designed with the tools of landscape, the work implicitly poses the question of the part of creation that can involve the profession of Landscape Architecture. The nature of the commands does not automatically imply the design of a space under the sky — arrangement — as an act of creation. Gilles Brusset, the leading designer of this project, directed a landscape agency as a parallel of his artistic activity, making it possible to conceive the conception of landscapes as acts of creation and the conception of works of art as landscapes.

Figuras 5 y 6. Esculturas como música (©Pierre-yves Brunaud)     
Figures 5 and 6: sculpture as music (©Pierre-yves Brunaud) 
Figuras 7 y 8. Esculturas como suelo (©Binocle + Pierre-yves Brunaud)     
Figures 7 and 8: sculpture as land (©Binocle + Pierre-yves Brunaud) 
Figura 9. Haciendo esculturas mediante herramientas del paisaje (©Gilles Brusset)
Figure 9. Making sculpture with the tools of landscape (©Gilles Brusset)

1.2.1. The site involved

The philosopher Gilles A.Tiberghien writes about the sculpture-landscape of The Childhood of the Fold in the text "The Games of the World": "a sculpture when it becomes a landscape is a kind of tuning fork that set the tone from which we will apprehend it ". Inscribed in the existing landscape, the work plays the role of revealing latent qualities. They act by underlining, amplification and contrasts. The tools used exacerbate the strengths of the site. We contemplate the artwork like a landscape, we walk there. It is not so much an object in itself as an optical instrument that gives to read the framework of the physical world.

The sculpture-landscape reveals folds in the taut lines of the topography of the site of the external spaces and introduces the plastic figure of the topographic fold, through the curve. The Recumbent sculpture is a base of architectures. In section, the erasure of the sculpture, whose emergences are limited to 435.40, is in favor of the facades of the school of Boudines for which it acts as a base. In response to the context of heritage architecture in the Meyrin-Parc area, the work of art is lying on the ground, lying in the folds of the ground.  The acceleration of the rhythm of the changes of direction proposes a dynamic sequence in the ground of the site. The principle of the sculpture-landscape is that of the inscription of one landscape in another. On one hand, the site is involved in its physical dimension, and, on the other hand in its geographical dimension at the territorial scale. Existing site features (straight lines) are exacerbated by the contrasting effect of the inscription of the sculpture-landscape (curves).

Figura 10. Efecto de contraste (©Pierre-yves Brunaud)
Figure 10: contrasting effect (©Pierre-yves Brunaud) 

1.2.2. Restitution of a geographical situation

The sculpture-landscape settles in the middle of the site, modifies the ground and reinterprets forms of the landscapes of Jura, in the manner of a topographical model. 50 years after the modern advent, the artistic project of "L'enfance du pli" restores instead the specificity of a situation in space. Provoked by sculpture, the folding of the ground offers a game of succession of horizons and interiority in a vast expanse that was devoid of it. The location, forms, exposure, soil and horizons of a place forms a unique identity card. The specificity and uniqueness of the places are defined by a certain number of concrete elements more or less sensitive. These elements are a reservoir of materials for creative projects. Using the elements of the site as raw material of the work allows its inseparable inscription. The identity of the transformed places is then highlighted by works that sing the poetry of places. The work of art and the landscape project then escape the status of object to be incorporated into the site. The inhabitant, the visitor and the passerby can then experience a presence effect to the particular world. The uniqueness of the site made sensitive then echoes the individuality felt, the feeling that everyone can be unique.

Figura 11. Jugar y esconderse en los pliegues topográficos (©Pierre-yves Brunaud)
Figure 11: to play and hide in the topographic folds (©Pierre-yves Brunaud)

The sacred land: The vegetal surface no longer intervenes as a surface of free space more or less defined, but circumscribed and anchored by the matter of the asphalt, is celebrated for itself. The relationship of the living soil (turf) and the inert soil (asphalt) is unrolled by the aluminum edge over a length of 500 linear meters wrinkled.

Horizon increased: The existing 435.40 line of reference, 117 meters long, acts as a horizon of the site. The project develops the length of contour nf 435.40 over a length of 304 meters, multiplying manholes in fields / against fields and sets of heights.

Figura 12. A la izquierda, planta preexistente. A la derecha, planta de proyecto (©Gilles Brusset)

Figure 12: pre existing plan on the left / project plan on the right  (©Gilles Brusset)

Figura 13. Escala geográfica (©Gilles Brusset)
Figure 13: géographical scale  (©Gilles Brusset)

2. Childhood in city

The fantasy of children finds a plastic expression in the public space. The project is a model of the Jurassian folding, given to be seen as a picture of the world of childhood from the roof terraces balcony on the site. The emergence of this concrete form and without predetermined use in the rationalist landscape of Meyrin-parc acts as a counterpoint, emergence of the unconscious - childhood - of the site, after the clean slate of adulthood. As a work of art, the project clearly shows its lack of function, all oriented it is towards the manifestation of plastic games under the sky. The absolute coherence of the urban plan and architectures is highlighted by contrast. The poem of the right angle and the texture of the raw concrete responds to the music of round shapes and smooth smoothness of the asphalt.

2.1. Spatiality of folding and Landscape of childhood

The landscape sculpture intervenes on the mass of the ground of the external spaces of the School of Boudines and restores in an exacerbated way the plasticity of the original folds which manufactured the landscapes of the region. The elongated mountains of the Jura meet the elongated sculpture, stretched in longitudinal folds. The enormous spatial and temporal scales of the geological formation of the Jura meet the scale of the children with the sculpture-landscape.

The succession of slopes, hills and valleys, the interfaces between the mineral soil and the vegetal soil, the runoff paths are all notions of geography rendered apprehensible by means of their plastic expression.

Figura 14. Recorriendo la geografía (©Pierre-yves Brunaud)
Figure 14: Running the géography (©Pierre-yves Brunaud)

Sculpture-landscape produces a crisscross spatiality that offers children a sensitive pedagogy, a physical experience of the curve and a variety of situations differentiated in the space of the pleated ground. The series of hills and curvatures outline an enveloping horizon. The topography in which the children evolve gives a tangible reading of the space thanks to the altimetric landmarks and lines of horizons at their height (40 to 140 cm) drawn by the soft emergence of the shapes of the folded hills. The levels of their crest lines give young children benchmarks of heights to measure themselves against the space as they grow.

Figura 15. Infancia y escala geográfica (©Gilles Brusset)
Figure 15: childhood and géographic scales (©Gilles Brusset)

The classic elements of games, furniture, sandboxes, grassed land movements or flexible soil are replaced by the imaginary geography of sculpture-landscape. In a broad movement, it unifies the variety of children's games.

Figura 16. La escultura como juego (©Pierre-yves Brunaud)
Figure 16: Sculpture as playground (©Pierre-yves Brunaud)

2.2. Games of space and time

The artwork is related to the situation, the history and the symbolism of the place it intend to manifest the uniqueness and specificity. Soliciting a sensitive perception, we apprehend it with simplicity. Whether by his sensitivity to light, by interlocking details or by the integration of plants, the artwork compose with the times of perception, and make duration a reserve of successive aesthetic events. We can consider in this sense the “fold’s childhood” is involving the displacement of observers integrates the notions of fields / against-fields, plays its solar orientation, etc.

Figura 17. Uso de las curvas y las líneas (©Pierre-yves Brunaud)     
Figure 17: Use curves and lines (©Pierre-yves Brunaud)
Figura 18. Una escultura en un parque / un parque en una escultura (©Pierre-yves Brunaud)
Figure 18: Sculpture as lanscape (©Pierre-yves Brunaud)

3. A sculpture in a park / a park in a sculpture

The artistic intervention takes the form of a sculpture of soil made in the materials of the Meyrin parc site, asphalt, aluminum and turf. The artistic act diverts the materials from their current use, which inaugurates:

• at first the surprise to see the banal and the strictly utilitarian take extraordinary forms and play a new role.

• in a second time can be a meditation on the world of possibilities which is ours and the illuminating function of the art on this subject. The emergence of the undulating topographic game of sculpture within the modern planes plays the full effect of contrast and questions by bringing them together two great movements of the 1960s / 1970s: the architectural one with the realization of the "modern" urban space and the other artistic with the realization of works in situ in the American deserts, the land art to which the sculpture refers by a stake in its materiality and composition of the forms of the landscape itself.

The space of the site, between public and collective, articulates architecture and landscape. Between architecture and landscape, art is a third component that highlights their relationships. The building of the built masses and the construction of urban spaces and landscapes are cultural facts that art can make as such in the eyes of everyone. The work acts as a condenser of the spirit of the place. It is up to an optimistic urbanity and confident in the potentialities of living together that the work will have to contribute. The place of the subject and the notion of shared space are primordial notions. The childhood of the fold is an opportunity to concretize a contribution to the common space, to bring out an amazed consciousness and to set its components to music.

Since the time of the statues representing the person of the king reigning on the royal squares of the European cities, the works of art did not stop modulating the staging of their symbolic and the nature of their presence in the public space. The work of art of "childhood of the fold" has no base or frame. Listed in the field, it is part of the continuum of the urban space, has no discernable limit and literally emerges from the ground, like a form provoked by a geological telluric force. The frame becomes dematerialized, the function of the work is transformed: it exists as much by and for itself as by the games, postures and relationships that it allows and engenders. The work of art is not so much an aesthetic plastic fact inert as a dance of bodies under the sky, projecting their shadows on the curved asphalt and cutting their silhouette on the backgrounds of the landscape.


(1) Gilles A. Tiberghien, Les jeux du monde, Fonds d’art contemporain de la ville de Meyrin, 2017


Nota Legal
Directora: María A. Leboreiro Amaro, Dra. Arquitecto. Profesora Titular de la E.T.S. de Arquitectura de Madrid
Consejo de redacción: Miquel Adriá, director de la revista Arquine
Carmen Andrés Mateo, Arquitecta. Profesora Asociada de la E.T.S. de Arquitectura de Madrid
José Mª Ezquiaga Dominguez. Dr. Arquitecto. Profesor Titular de la E.T.S. de Arquitectura de Madrid
José Fariña Tojo. Dr. Arquitecto. Catedrático de la E.T.S. de Arquitectura de Madrid
Fernando Fernández Alonso. Arquitecto. Profesor Asociado de la E.T.S. de Arquitectura de Madrid
Josep Mª Llop Torne. Arquitecto. Profesor en la Facultad de Geografía de la Universidad de Lleida
Javier Ruiz Sánchez. Dr. Arquitecto. Profesor Titular de la E.T.S. de Arquitectura de Madrid
Secretaría: Llanos Masiá
Edita: planur-e
Avda. Valdemarin, 68
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Traducción: planur-e
ISSN: 2340-8235
Copyright: (2013): planur-e
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