Research axes

The theoretical and methodological presuppositions which have been followed since the beginning of our research activities are the following ones :

It is first to contribute to the construction of reasoned inventories and graphic and cartographic database.

Right from the start, our work of inventory or pre-inventory developed at the request or in dialogue with the institution of the historic buildings (Inventory and Conservation of the MH) and the local and regional authorities (Regional Council). Initially directed towards logics of programs and themes (Marseille vernacular architecture, town halls in the Bouches du Rhône…) they were gradually divided in relation to the problematic lines of research.

It is then a question of developing monographic, comparative and synthesis research work, guided by two principles. The first is theoretical and concerns the analysis of all phases of the architectural project that reveals practices and representations. These bring into play the question of the local/total report, the challenges of modernity and those of identity.  The second is methodological and consists of favouring the understanding of space as a shape, as a rationally instrumented system in the project.

Our “ethics” of research is a method that assumes a double approach: “the one which will seek the necessary elements to understand the formation of spaces in the history of social relationships; and the one which completes the knowledge that we can have from social relationships with the analysis of space configurations” (Ch. Devillers).

Most of our work has adopted, since the outset, two main lines of research. A third line combining the theme of heritage with history has been developed more recently :

Urban changes and urban project

Inspired by Italian and French work of the 60s and 70s on typo-morphology our first investigations concerned Marseille, with sometimes comparative openings (the Mediterranean and Europe): the dynamics and changes of the port-city, the double-residence in the Mediterranean (country houses), the atlas of the urban shapes (types and stages of growth) of Marseille…

The most recent aspects of this approach deal with the atlas of the suburban shapes of Marseille metropolitan area and the formation processes of the new city on the banks of the Pond of Berre (urban history and morphogenesis) on the one hand, and on the other hand with the forms of Reconstruction in Marseille (architectures and urban projects).

Furthermore, the commune of Gardanne was used as a test to initiate the research on the historical and patrimonial Structuring of the coalfield territory in Provence, the finalisation of this work will be completed by expanding the area analysis to all communes of the coalfield.

The architectural project : modernity and identity

Inspired by the tradition of a “sociology of art” inaugurated by Pierre Francastel, by the assets of a “critical history” of architecture (Tafuri, Frampton, Curtis) and by a more specific approach to the architectural discipline known as “archaeology of the project”, our work deals with the architects’ implication in the construction of a territory and of a specific identity (Marseille, Provence and Côte d’Azur, the Mediterranean). Successively, Le Corbusier, Pierre Puget, Fernand Pouillon and Charles Garnier, were the subject of thorough studies led under this ‘exhibitions and publications’ angle.

The most recent building sites and works inaugurate a more transverse vision (CIAM 9 of Aix-en-Provence in 1953, CIAM-Alger group) which makes it possible to highlight a critical trend of architectural modernity, attentive to ethnographic and identity dimensions in the (theoretical) “construction” of the inhabitant and his housing.

Modernity as heritage

Work of inventory and analysis of the heritage of “the Thirty Glorious years” take part in the large new research field opened by the research world on architecture and town planning of this period. The connection of this work with the requests of the institutions (Regional Councils, DRAC -Regional Office of Cultural Affairs- of PACA), in particular from the point of view of the procedures of the “label heritage of the 20th century” involves our attention and our work of evaluation in a field which mobilises history but which goes over the lines of the research field strictly speaking for the one of the heritage social construction. This is testified by our participation in the commissions that issue the DRAC 20th Century Heritage label of PACA and Languedoc regions.

Our first ambition is to extend the actions of pre-inventory of the architectural heritage of “the Thirty glorious years” (finalised in the Alpes-Maritimes and started in the Var) to all departments of the PACA region. It will also be a question of starting a new reflection on the concept itself of patrimonialization, in particular around the conflicts of memory and use by means of a comparative opening on other Mediterranean fields