dimanche 16 novembre 2014

Singapore Art: Koh Liang Jiang

-Bilingual Article-

“Ant swarming City

City full of dreams

Where in broad day the specter tugs your sleeve” 
Charles Baudelaire

In Singapore I visited galleries, museums, trying to escape from the city. Art is a need. Art keeps your imagination alive. Sunday, when I entered Chan Hamp Gallery and I saw "Academy Rules" the current exhibition, I became quiet. Koh Liang Jiang, Loi Cai Xiang, Nyein Su, Yeo Jian Long: four young artist recently graduated from Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) are exposing. From one world to another, different techniques are used, oil or ink, realist or abstract, each young artist prouve that creativity in Singapore is flourishing. 

I spend an hour looking at Koh Liang Jiang's ink. He draws cities going out from his mind, with remarquables details, each one in perpetual movement. Fantasy highly detail make Koh Liang Jiang's city real in a way. His style reminds comics, such as Cités Obscures, adding militarization and severity in the expression. Few people animate them. Exposing such drawings in a city that is between heterotopia, collage and hyppereality allow us to escape even more from the "real" world. Insects carrying buildings, temples, cities made by tanks stacking, urban environment collapsing with nature and mountains: universes are diverse and fascinating. A nice sprang in a creative mind.

Coleoptera Domestication 1

Coleoptera Domestication 2

Coleoptera Domestication 3

Zoom Tenebris city

 Tenebris city

"Où le spectre en plein jour raccroche le passant!

Fourmillante cité, cité pleine de rêves,"
Charles Baudelaire

A Singapour j'ai visité galeries, musées, en tenant d'échapper à la ville. L'Art est vital. L'Art maintient notre imagination en éveil. Dimanche, en entrant dans la galerie Chan Hamp et que j'ai vu l'exposition "Academy Rules", je suis devenue silencieuse. Koh Liang Jiang, Loi Cai Xiang, Nyein Su, Yeo Jian Long: quatre jeunes artistes récemment diplomés de Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) exposent leur oeuvres. D'un univers à l'autre, plusieurs techniques sont utilisées, de l'huile à l'encre, réalisme ou abstrait, chaque jeune artiste nous prouve que la créativité est en ébullition à Singapour.

J'ai passé plus d'une heure à regarder les dessins à l'encre de  Koh Liang Jiang. Des villes tout droit sorties de son imagination s'étalent sur papier, dans un détail absolu, chacune en mouvement perpetuel. L'imaginaire si détaillé de l'artiste le rend réel. Exposer de tels dessins dans une ville mélange d'hétérotopie, collage, hyppereality nous aide à échapper un peu plus à cette réalité brute. Des insectes chargés de bâtiments, de temples, des villes résultats de l'empilement de tanks, l'urbain se faisant dévorer par la nature, les montagnes: les univers sont complexes, diverses et fascinant. Une jolie escapade dans un esprit créatif.

Libellés : , , , , , , , ,

vendredi 7 novembre 2014

Use of public space in Singapore and Paris

“Life without speech and without action ... has ceased to be a human life because it is no longer lived among men.”
Hannah Arend 

In May 1968, after several weeks of discussions due to the economic crisis and the cultural, social and political context, students took down Nanterre, and then La Sorbonne. Thousands of people walked the streets and workers started strikes, which lead the French president De Gaulle to leave office, dissolve the assembly and organize early elections, which were won by his party, despite what people thought. This movement became emblematic for France, but especially for Paris, a city where protest are part of the day to day life, an old tradition that may took its origin with the French Revolution of 1789. The street, political use of the public space, are for the Parisians a way to show their happiness, discontent or fears. The use of public space doesn’t belong only to left parties, last year more than a million of people walked from Denfert-Rochereau to Invalides, from Porte Maillot to Arc de Triomphe in three manifestation against gay marriage, a movement leaded by conservatives. In fact, the boulevards of Paris are full of citizens protesting every week meanwhile 10,578 km away, Singapore’s Speaker’s Corner- the only public space free for public speeches- remains empty week after week, the grass perfectly green, cut and hydrated. By the different public spaces and use of it, we can tell from afar that the politics of Singapore and Paris are different. Both countries claim to be a democracy, but when it comes to let the people talk and express their own ideas, their laws and shape of the public space differs.

Speeches and manifestation are essential to people. Hannah Arendt, who worked on the notion of public space, wrote: “Life without speech and without action ... has ceased to be a human life because it is no longer lived among men.”. By controlling what people say, and where and how they can express themselves, you shape a deep part of the society. Both Paris and Singapore ́s politicians understood this problematic. Paris has a longer history than Singapore, and the city is a result of different influences. The island tried to redefine itself, creating a simulacrum of a town. Everything is planned, URA and HDB have a free power, and the same party retains all the authorities since the British leaved.
With around 3500 public protests a year Paris has become famous for it, the strikes they are often linked with and for its freedom of expression. Media are not under any censorship and neither is the Internet. Singapore is poor in allowing for protest, and the public demonstrations are illegal outside of the boundaries of the speaker corners. To understand the two systems it is important to define protest and manifestation. In Paris protests, strikes, talks and demonstrations are not easy to separate by looking at the use of space. In all cases, people walk from point A to point B, singing, screaming slogans and holding banners. Sometimes they block the space, like when the farmers blocked the entrances of Paris with their tractors in November 2013. Thus, this event showed how easy it is to disturb the Parisian circulation. In Singapore the main difference is between legal and illegal, Speaker Corner and outside. Some people break laws once in a while; in March 15 of 2008 19 people including Singapore Democratic Party secretary Chee Son Juan held a demonstration at Parliament House in the context of the “Tak Boleh Tahan” (which means in Malay “I can’t take it anymore”), a campaign launched by the party to protest against the raise of living costs in Singapore. The police warned, the protestors stayed, the police arrested, the protestors were sued. They defended themselves using the Singaporean constitution and their right to “enjoy the guarantees of freedom of assembly and expression”. But this right seems to be applied only in the small area of Hong Lim Park.
To hold a manifestation in both cities you need a registration. But while in Singapore it can be done online, in Paris you need to go to the Police. In Singapore the right is nominative, in Paris it is mostly under an association’s name. In both cities you need to give a purpose of the gathering. In Paris, cars or motorcycles can also be registered, and a path has to be chosen, then the Police approve it or not, and if people gather without approval they can be arrested. The latter case is unusual since only a few manifestations are forbidden, when it involves either far right-wing ideas or manifestations that will probably create violent unrest (regarding the Israeli-Palestine conflict for example). The police avoids accepting the manifestations that seems to be cause of conflict, between religions or ethnicity. A certain ideology can be seen behind, and the need of keeping the idea of the Nation is strong. People can be against the laws of the government, but they should not fight against each other. Memories of the Commune de Paris are still alive. Therefore we can argue that even in Paris, the purpose of the manifestation is controlled.
It is interesting to see the process to follow to use the public space, while it is supposed to be a place for everyone to be free to speak. Paris has a certain culture of talk, like most of the European countries, a culture of the Agora still present today. Singapore is lacking on this point, and looking around the South East Region is rarely affected by manifestations and strikes.
People occupying the street, blocking a district of a city, and organizing their lives in a new space, are often attacked by the authority. Could this happen in Paris? Probably. Could this happen in Singapore? I don’t think so. The definition of public space is then a new problematic. Hanging around Singapore you notice that people don’t meet as much as Parisian in benches, but tend to meet in air-conditioned spaces, like for example malls, that are not public spaces. Reflections of Hannah Arendt about the subject could be modernized, since in Singapore public space tends to disappear.
In Paris and Singapore, holding people in a specific space is important. It is a way to control them if needed for security reasons. The way to shape the space is a clue. When Haussmann designed Paris, he created “percées” (opening) by drawing “boulevard”, linking police stations, freeing the view and large enough to allow for the use of tanks. His works where actually followed by the Commune of Paris, a city revolution, and people had then to build barricades to occupy the space. In Singapore the Speaker Corner was created in 2000, and it is located near two police stations. The outdoor space in itself is in open-air, and no shade is provided, while the climate does not allow standing up in the shining sun for hours. There are not many shops to buy water around either. Since 2009 the government installed CCTV cameras around. Speaker ́s Corner became therefore one of the most surveilled places in town. The space is not only shaped through urban planning, but also technology. It evokes the Panopticon and shows how easy it is to control a population through modern processes. When people walk around these two cities, the question of politics and their implication in the design of the city is not easy to notice.

Singapore and Paris were shaped in different ways, and the place between workplace and home, the “thirdplace” as Ray Oldenburg called it, is a key to understand the two political systems. From a big picture of the city, with interventions possible in Paris thanks to the boulevards, or the big gatherings hard to conceive in Singapore due to the labyrinth of its roads, to details with place occupied or Speaker ́s Corners, we can conclude that the political system reflects into the urban shape of both cities. One place for manifestations in Singapore as opposed to the whole city of Paris, one park versus streets, one boundary versus organic boundaries. Two cities that choose to give to the people a very distinct way of public expression.


Arendt, Hannah. The Origins of Totalitarianism. (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1973). 

Arendt, Hannah. The Human Condition. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998). 
Foucault, Michel. Surveiller et punir. Naissance de la prison (Paris : Gallimard, 1975). 

(Paper produced during the class "Paris Singapore" at NUS)

Libellés : , , , ,

vendredi 12 septembre 2014

Singapour : HDB & contrôle de l'habita(n)t

« L'humanité s'installe dans la mono-culture; elle s'apprête àproduire la civilisation en masse, comme la betterave. Son ordinairene comportera plus que ce plat.  »
Claude Lévi-Strauss

Voici plus d'un mois que je suis arrivée dans l'île-état-ville de Singapour, un mois qui m'a permis de découvrir certains rouages, un jeu politique intense et une maîtrise du détail. De l'arrogance des gratte-ciels, à l'insolence des lois locales -telle que celle rendant illégale les sans-abris-, il me semble de temps à présent de retranscrire ces expériences vécue ou observées. Un semestre, court laps de temps, vision saccadée d'un univers troublant. 4 mois pour absorber, l'éternité pour analyser.

Le premier article de cette série est consacré aux HDB. La France a ses Habitats à Loyer Modéré, Singapour a son Housing & Development Board. 14% du parc immobilier du logement pour le premier, 81,9% pour le second (statistiques de 2013). La réussite du HDB s'explique par son but premier : éradiquer les "bidonvilles" de l'île et loger ses habitants dans des habitats de type occidental. Ainsi il y a 54 ans, naissaient une politique urbaine à grande échelle ici, soutenue (et dirigée) par l'Etat. Le HDB révolutionnait le mode de vie ancestrale des Singapouriens, pour s'imposer comme héros de la vie moderne. Mais en s'approchant de plus près, les finitions du système révèlent des failles, et soulèvent un tas de questions métaphysiques. 

Le HDB est présenté par l'Etat comme la clef de réussite de Singapour. Pas de sans abris qui courent les rues, pas de ghettoïsation comme en France. Un accès pour tous au parc immobilier. Cependant, impossible d'investir et de se projeter dans l'avenir. La raison ? Lorsque l'on achète un HDB, on signe un bail, qui est pour la plupart des cas d'une durée de 99 ans. Les deux autres types de contrats sont ceux "free hold" et "999 years lease". C'est un mécanisme hérité des anglais. Autrement dit l'achat s'apparente à une location d'un siècle. Etant donné que le HDB n'a que 54 ans, attendons 2059 pour juger de la réussite ou non de ce système. 

Le HDB se présente comme un bâtiment monté sur pilotis, constitué en bloc, qui abrite un voisinage constitué... par un quota. Singapour est une ville nouvelle, un état récent, qui acquiert son indépendance il y a 49 ans. La population est métissée, étant un grand port marchand, s'y croisent des indiens, des malais, des indonésiens, et des occidentaux. Le singapourien "natif" n'existe plus, et l'ethnie dominante est la chinoise. Le gouvernement souhaite qu'un certain quota de "Singapouriens" soit conservé, à hauteur de 70%, pour conserver une identité nationale. Ainsi pour les HDB, la population est répartie, pour éviter le communautarisme. Un site internet permet de vérifier la disponibilité d'un quartier selon le quota ethnic : http://services2.hdb.gov.sg/webapp/BB29ETHN/BB29STREET/. Pratique !

Le HDB est donc un quartier à petite échelle, et ses rez de chaussées laissés libre par le système du pilotis (non sans rappeler Corbu), ont vocation à rassembler ses occupants. Hier j'ai ainsi vu une soirée de mariage s'y dérouler, et la semaine dernière une fête indu. Le gouvernement s'efforce de promouvoir ces rassemblements citoyens, désignant des responsables de quartier, encourageant les publicités montrant les maires entourés de gens souriants à l'entrée des HDB. Une façade heureuse en somme.

Le HDB c'est un bâtiment à bas prix, et jusqu'à peu, le design était très strict. De l'extérieur impossible de déterminer des différences entre un HDB de l'est ou de l'ouest. Récemment la politique change, on accorde une plus grande liberté aux architectes. Ce qui doit ravir les étudiants en architecture, puisque ce type de bâtiment constitue la majorité de ce qui est construit sur l'île. Ainsi le dernier né est le New Pinnacle, impossible de le différencier d'un condo.

Le HDB est un vrai révélateur de la politique gouvernementale. Célibataire, il est possible d'acheter des studios à partir de 21 ans, en se mettant sur la liste d'attente longue de 2 ans, mais qui sont rares (et chers). Mais c'est tout. Après 35 ans vous pouvez acheter n'importe quel type de logement. Sinon il faut être marié. Les Singapouriens attendent d'ailleurs le mariage pour quitter le nid familial. Les appartements les plus courants sont ceux de 3 chambres, une pour papa et maman, une par enfant. La famille idéale ici. Le divorce est bien plus rare en France, quant au mariage gay ou au pacs, ils n'existent pas. Le gouvernement cherche à promouvoir la famille "traditionnelle".

Source : https://services2.hdb.gov.sg/webapp/BC31ISOP2/BC31SMain

Vous remarquerez sur ce plan le "House hold shelter", petit bunker propre à chaque appartement. L'Etat se sent sans cesse menacé, et si une guerre éclate avec la Malaisie ou l'Indonésie, il suffirait de quelques jours pour réduire l'île en cendre, ou affamer sa population, Singapour étant loin d'être auto suffisant. D'ailleurs c'est dans cet état d'esprit que l'armée qui a développée le système de défense Singapourien n'est autre que l'armée israélienne. Les règlementations du logement social en France vous semblent insurmontables et briment votre créativité ? Découvrez celles du HDB, régulé au millimètre près. L'égalité a un prix.


Voici plus d'un mois que je suis arrivée dans l'île-état-ville de Singapour, il me tarde d'écrire sur la politique, la corruption, les sans abris, l'immigration, l'occupation de l'espace public. A suivre...

Libellés : , , , , , ,

mercredi 30 juillet 2014

Capri, c'est fini.

"Les Italiens sont des Français de bonne humeur"

Jean Cocteau

Et nous voilà partis pour quelques jours en Italie, en mer Tyrrhénienne. Arrivée à Naples à 22h il m'a fallu quelques minutes pour réaliser que les bâtiments étaient ternes, que les réverbères n'y étaient pour rien. Le sol jonché de détritus, les vêtements pollués affichés aux fenêtres, les volets à moitié ouverts et les rues désertées: Naples m'a fait peur. Au coin de notre auberge, un bâtiment affiche "Anno 1936 XIV E. FASCISTA". Au pied de notre auberge, une librairie spécialisée en architecture. Les bâtiments s'entremêlent dans la ville italienne, désordonnés dans une poésie moderne. Mais notre choix est fait, demain nous partons.

Mardi, bateau, Ischia. La mer est transparente et le soleil bien présent quand nous débarquons sur l'île. Sur le chemin de l'hôtel, une affiche pour une fête de village attire notre attention: "Martedi 15 Luglio 2014 ore 21.00 Festa del Contadino". Arrivés en avance, direction LE bistrot du coin, limoncello & vin rouge local (1e50) pour se rafraichir. La fête de village est un régal, des bruschetta à 3 euros avec vin local inclus, des jeunes qui présentent leur spectacle de fin d'année et des parents ravis : découverte de l'Italie loin des touristes. Nous sommes en hauteur et la scène surplomble l'ile, le campanile nous nargue et de petites maisons nous entourent.

Mercredi, visite de l'ile à pieds, et se glisse dans nos têtes l'idée de manger une pizza pour le dîner. Au moment venu nous grimpons dans le bus en sens inverse de la veille à la recherche d'une pizza au four d'antan. Et nous nous retrouvons dans le même petit village. Terrasse au dessus du bistrot d'hier, bouteille de rouge locale -nous avons pu voir les vignes sur le trajet- et pizzas Napolitaine et Margarita. Simples et légères, 4e l'unité, vue sur la baie, ne ratez pas cette adresse si vous êtes de passage : La Floreana. 
Soudain, des chants. Ils s'élèvent de la petite place de la veille. Ni une ni deux nous y voilà. C'est la messe qui célèbre la sainte du village. Nous y assistons, touchant et enivrant. Adieu Paris bonjour l'Italie. La messe se termine. Retour à l'hôtel. Bruits, lumière, poudre. C'est le campanile qui est en feu. Un admirable jeu de lumière s'anime en son sein, virevoltant entre le bleu et le rouge. Puis le toit s'agite, laissant s'évader un feu d'artifice pas très sécurisé. Surpris nous courons et ne sommes pas les seuls. Quelle soirée !

Jeudi, souvenir que la veille, nous avions vu une affiche a l'occasion d'un concert donné par le Conservatoire de Jérusalem et la jeune violoniste Pei-Wen Liao. Rendez vous au jardin de La Mortella à 21h, vue sur la mer, Prosceco à 2e, un peu de Schumann, trop de moustiques et deux heures de délice. Les mélodies s'enchaînent, perturbées par moment par les musiques commerciales des boites de nuit qui s'élèvent de Forio.

Vendredi, départ pour Capri. L'ile qui nous fait tant rêver, nous, grands fans de Godard. On s'imagine en Brigitte Bardot et Michel Piccoli, franchissant les marches de la Villa Malaparte de Adalberto Libera. Nous avons réservés un bed & breakfast à Anacapri. La ville est un trésor, l'ile montagneuse. Pour aller de Capri à Anacapri nous prenons un bus, qui oscille dans les virages. Pas de panique, jusqu'à ce qu'un petit vieux fasse son signe de croix. Fermons les yeux. Nous découvrons qu'il y a un concert le soir même à la Villa San Michele, par le violoncelliste Jacob Koranvi et la danseuse Heather Ware. Suites de Bach. Billets pris. Le public est plus jeune, le lieu incroyable. Pendant une heure, la danseuse ondule sur le Cantor de Leipzig, s'imprégnant de chacune des notes qui s'envole du violoncelle. La complicité est évidente, on assiste à un amour à quatre, Jacob & Heather , le corps et la musique. Sur le chemin du retour, comédie musicale sur la place du village. Histoire d'une jeune fille qui voulait entrer au couvent. Amusant mais très simple, nous restons plus d'une heure. Les comédiens sont fervents, et s'accumulent des moments kitschs : de la fumée, des hommes en collants qui dansent, des musiques très entrainantes.

Samedi, nous avons l'idée folle d'aller à la Villa Malaparte à pieds. C'est notre pèlerinage. Hommage au grand Godard. La folie démarre à 11h, lorsque nous descendons les escaliers  phéniciens. Un père et sa fille les remontent et nous annoncent 15 minutes de marche. Une heure plus tard nous voilà en bas, en train de gravir Capri, pour rejoindre le bord de mer. C'est à 14h30 que nous découvrons enfin la merveille. La Villa est là, au loin. Nous tentons tout pour la rejoindre, en vain. Deux fois nous faisons face à des portails. Déçus mais heureux, nous repartons nous balader dans Capri. Le soir c'est Jet Set, whisky, Chianti et cigarillo sur la Piazetta, maintenant renommée Piazza Umberto I. Il nous manque la maîtrise de la langue pour nous prendre pour Pasolini ou Fellini. Si seulement...

Dimanche, on s'échappe pour la plage, mais c'est un échec. Les rochers sont envahis, les enfants hurlent dans l'eau, et les jeunes italiennes s'étalent sur le chemin qui mène à l'eau. Plus tard nous profitons de notre dernière soirée pour prendre un verre, puis un autre, puis ... chez un caviste "hype" à Anacapri, "Vinoteca". Le cadre est idéal, petite ruelle, le décor est simple et les vins exquis. L'intérieur est épuré, un comptoir où l'on peut voir le fromage frais et la charcuterie fine n'attendre que nous. Au mur, des niches réservées aux vins, ainsi qu'un système d'accrochage astucieux. Le vin devient décoration. Dehors, sur des tables hautes et tabouret, on découvre sur une grande ardoise que pour 5e nous aurons vin et bruschetta. Nous testons la plupart, et mon coup de coeur restera miel, fraise et gorgonzola. Les souvenirs sont toujours là. Le caviste est génial, nous faisans découvrir des vins improbables, devinant nos goûts à chacun. Nous partons faire un tour, mais en revenant la tentation est trop grande, Chianti c'est pas fini !

Lundi, nous partons. Adieu Capri, Adieu Italie. Mais la partie n'est que remise.

Libellés : , , , , , ,

vendredi 20 juin 2014

Disney Consumerism and Playful Architecture

Inside theme parks people are in a created and planned imaginary world, where amusement is the aim and the entire space is organized to give the sensation of freedom. Theme parks are the concrete realization of our fantasy of escapism through amusement, like Guy Debord describes in La Société du Spectacle. The parks imagined by Walt Disney are to provide spectacle and amusement to the masses, as the funfair did before. It is how it has evolved, becoming a built space wherens before it was nomadic and ephemeral. The first built (in opposition to ephemeral) parks with attractions were only about entertainment. Disneyland is the second theme park created, located in Anaheim, California. The theme was designed around Walt Disney’s cartoons. He wanted to turn from the two dimensions of the film to the three dimensions of the built environment. The director imposed rules from the beginning that radically changed the universe of amusement parks and funfairs: Disneyland was a world designed for children, with a goal of reassurance, giving them a place where they could meet their heroes. What are the consequences of these changes?
Theme parks have been a subject that many contemporary thinkers have explored, from Maxim Gorky to Jean Baudrillard. Sociologists, journalists and architects have also been interested in this subject. Rem Koolhaas’s Delirious New York explored the connection between theme parks and real cities, studying Coney Island and its direct impact on Manhattan. The amusement park is a terrain for experimentation, where architects, designers and engineers can search and build all kinds of architecture because it is a world apart, with its own rules, and not considered as serious as the “real world”. In the theme park you have a décor that makes you feel you are outside of the “real” world. Theme parks and amusement parks are different in this way. But is it more than just a décor in plaster and papier-mâché? Isn’t it the whole conception of the theme park that is about troubling your perception? In the era of the virtual, the question of “real” and “hyperreality” that Baudrillard identified twenty years ago is still valid. From a simple décor to a town, Walt Disney wanted to export his ideas about urban planning and the way people should live. He died before EPCOT could be realized, but the Disney Company followed his intentions and developed Celebration a planned community, in Florida next to Walt Disney World Resort and Val d’Europe near Disneyland Paris in France. Like the theme parks, the company entirely created and runs these cities.
In this article we will study how theme parks like Disneyland influence people’s consumption and initiate children early to consumerism through a playful architecture and how it rubs off on cities.


Theme parks are a recent invention, the first one opened in 1946, nine years before Disneyland, while the first amusement parks were built in the 1840’s. For many sociologists such as Scott Lukas, the World Columbian Exposition of 1893 is the starting point of this kind of leisure parks, because it was the first world’s fair with an area for entertainment (away from the exhibition halls), with the first big wheel constructed by Ferris. Sol Bloom who developed the area, cared about the design and the organization of the place, creating for example a street from Cairo, a reconstitution of a “little Egypt”. It’s not surprising that the fair influenced Walt Disney for his later parks; his father participated in the fair, constructing some of the buildings. He visited another exposition: the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco in 1939 and it also influenced him. He encountered three-dimensional miniature scenes, reconstitution of the bridge for example. For Scott Lukas the relationship between theme parks and the world fair is strong: The aim is to show technics to the public, make them dream, and even more importantly: the experience of both is “not being individual but being a part of a social drama and social consumption”. Social drama is in the tradition of the spectacle: people are coming to see a part of a spectacle together. Indeed visitors do not go alone to the park, but often with their family (2/3), or with friends (1/3). And they are part of the same show, becoming actors: theme parks create a new kind of relationship, a three dimensional experience. The social life is different inside of the theme park, a kind of mise en abyme created by a décor. Sharing the experience is important for the visitor, and nowadays even more so. Through fan clubs, or through social networks, even creating forums and websites, the visitor shares the experience with others. In the park it starts with the automatic camera put on the rides, just halfway down for example, that takes picture of the visitor while he is enjoying the ride. He can buy it afterwards, and take it home. But the social experience is not only in the attraction, but also in the queue, and everything is made to make you feel good.

According to legend, Walt Disney looked for a safe and clean place for his daughter, but couldn’t find any to his taste, and thought about building a place where children could walk and play safely. For him, as explained in Karal Ann Marling’s book, the place should reassure parents and kids. Even if it’s an outdoor space and seems to be a public space, with squares for example, it’s still a private place, with rules. No drugs, no alcohol, no pets, adults can’t be disguised and some clothes are prohibited such as those “which exposes inappropriate portions of the body such as string bikini tops, G-strings (...)”. The company wants to attract families, according to the audience of their cartoons. The model established is the contrary of Coney Island with the Lilliputian’s disturbing attraction or the funfair and the joy of alcohol: the park is full of attractions based on sensations, the universes are the cartoons’ ones, and there is no place for improvisation. The rhythm is meticulously calculated, and machines are running the temporal and physical space. Disneyland exposed a true ideology, founded on Walt Disney’s conservatism.
The theme park can be considered a public space for its function, it tends to be open and attract a large public, but we have to keep in mind that economy and the park are linked from the entrance of the park: You have to pay to enter. As we saw, Disney’s “passport ticket” was created in 1982. Before you had to pay per attraction, in addition to the entrance, unlike in the funfair where the entrance used to be free. It is also the idea of “no limit” and “free refill”: you can ride attractions as many times as you want. Disneyland is space for unlimited consumption. And consumption of the experience through architecture and machine is fairly new. In 2006, Miodrag Mitrasinovic, wrote Total Landscape, Theme Parks, Public Space, about this idea of the new meeting places that are private. He raised the idea that the theme park is a “privately-owned publicly accessible space in a themed mode”: the “PROPASt”. This notion comes out with his idea about “total landscape” and his research about the way we are turning all our public spaces into private spaces, or at least the incorporation of a private component. But if Disneyland is not an ordinary private place, it is also by the fact that his relation with the state is not ordinary: the theme park has the status of a private corporation receiving public governance rights, which means that the park has it’s own taxes, and “control the land”. It came out after the company asked the Florida State legislature to allow the company to govern its own land. The official name of Walt Disney World Resort in Florida is the “Reedy creek improvement district”, the immediate jurisdiction for the land and is 100 km2. We can say that Disneyland is almost a sovereign city-state. Walt Disney was thinking about his town project while asking the state for this special legislature, EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow). But he also said that by owning the land they could “control the area, so that it does not become the jungle of signs, lights and fly-by-night operations that have ‘fed’ on Disneyland’s audience”. In fact the idea of protecting Disneyland, by controlling its environment is linked to the idea of the theme park as a “world apart” and “dreamland”. Walt Disney wanted to have a clean and safe place, and for this he created the place separated from the city (the contrary of the Tivoli Garden in Copenhagen), that he considered dangerous and ruined by the modernism movement. “Amusementscapes” places evolved, during the pre-modern period it was located in the city, then it moved to the seaside, to finally be implanted in the suburb like every Disney park.

Walt Disney wanted to control everything, and to create a whole environment. The public had to take the car to go to Disneyland near Los Angeles (now the access is better, including buses and trains). As we saw, the first amusement parks were open spaces like the free entrance of the funfair, to the semi-open spaces like Coney Island to Disney’s enclosed spaces. The idea of an isolated space joins the utopian idea of the island: a place separated from the continent. In Disney World you find this idea with Peter Pan’s cartoon and attraction: Neverland is an island where children live without parental authority. And in the park itself: the sea is materialized by the land before the parking that can be seen as an allegory of a quayside: a huge space, were the visitor leaves his car and its last connection with the “real” world. He changes his way of moving and perception of the space by slowing down his rhythm. He leaves the giant scale of the city, and enters into a world at human scale. Then he is doing a travel through an imaginary and totally artificial geography and era: crossing an artificial space-time. From his childhood in Adventureland area to futuristic town in Tomorrowland area, the visitor has become part of a spectacle. Disneyland is escapism, but keeps references the visitor can stick on.

The main street shapes all the entrances Disneyland parks. It is the central place the park: you need to cross it to enter in the park or go out of it. It is the cultural strip where you can buy all kinds of souvenirs, even if you have other shops scattered in the park. It is the only “real” street of Disney parks, with buildings next to each other. The Victorian period and Marceline’s town where Walt Disney grew up inspire it. It is meant to evoke typical American Main Streets where commerce and social life used to take place. Again he is drawing on his own experience and tastes to design the park, creating nostalgia through quaintness: Main Street is not the reproduction of a “real” street but of the memory of it. The street is divided in three parts: town Square, a square in the entrance of the park, Main Street and Central plaza, the main square in front of the castle. The Main Street is reserved for parades. It became the symbol of Disney. The buildings in themselves are made out of plasterboard, and create a toy-town effect. The first floors are smaller than real ones and the second and third stories are even smaller (2/3 scale): it creates an optical illusion. You feel taller than you really are. Each park has it own Main Street, designed by the Imagineers (as Walt Disney called his “architects”, contraction of imagination + engineers). But some differences are relevant: in Japan they tried to turn it into a little Ginza, but their business partners wanted a Main Street USA. They roofed it with glass because of the bad weather: it is important that people can stay as long as they want in front of the display. In France they used archways, inspired by Parisian covered passages. By this architectural system, Imagineers turned the Main Street into a real mall.

On the next pages, we can see Disneyland Anaheim park. The first picture is taken from a plane, and the second one is a map made by the Imagineers. The map makes explicit the different universes by using a color per area. But the representation of the space is distorted: The view is reminiscent of the Middle Age representation of space, by being half axonometric, half plan. It tends to be easy to read, even for people who are not used to orientate themselves in a space. The park is represented as an island and the parking doesn’t exist. The different paths are not clear in the map, giving the sensation that the designers of it made it looks like a labyrinth. It raises the question of fluidity: how can you manage 40,000 visitors per day in 60 ha? In the point of view of urban planning, visitors can follow different paths, and the whole park is full of details and centers of attraction, such as stores, little parks and restaurants. For the queue time, the Imagineers designed a specific universe for each attraction. Visitors enter in the universe at the beginning, and the queue becomes a part of the plot. For Buzz Lightyear’s attraction for example, a plot is developed, to settle the story, and then the attraction, which is about shooting targets from small spaceships, is even more interesting. The visitor becomes an actor.
Disneyland uses the same five universes as we saw before (Frontierland, Adventureland, Tomorrowland, Fantasyland and Main Street), and in fact it is a reflection of globalization at a small scale. Each part of the park is connected: by the rail, path or underground tube. Disneyland is made for pedestrians: you have to leave your car outside to enter in, and Walt Disney was against modern architecture: he wanted to promote a perfect world at a smaller scale. He was against urban planning, and used his own analysis of the city to rethink the space, like a sociologist. In Disneyland an underground travel system serves the employees to travel from one part to another without being seen. It turns Disneyland into a huge theater stage. The tunnel is used like wings, and creates more illusion for the visitor: they don’t see the characters eating or going to the restrooms. But it also created mystery: lot of Disney fans love to explore these tunnels. It became part of the plot-myth, even if it was planned to be a functional solution.


Before it was a theme park, Disney was primarily a company that produced movies and cartoons. The stories were not invented by Walt Disney, but taken from famous old tales, such as those written by the brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen or Victor Hugo. There is no happy ending in the original tales, but Walt Disney rewrote them to stick to his own idea of what kids should learn. One could say ideology is omnipresent in tales with the moral of the story, and Walt uses his movies to share his own values, using moral lessons based on a conservative point of view. He said that “the screen version must perceive and emphasize the basic moral intent and the values upon which every great persistent fairly tale is founded.”. Until the end of the XIXth century, children are seen as “labor power”. Nowadays there is an “individualization of the child” and he is considered as a person, with a status and rights. Disneyland parks are the perfect reflection of this evolution, even if parents have to go with them, they tend to have their own moment in the park. Parents gave them a good time; they care about them and wants to spoil them, even if it sometimes leads to “little emperors” (Enfant-Roi). Today parents tend to “lock” their children into childhood. The park and the cartoons are deeply linked, because the park is supposed to be the building universes of the cartoons.
Even if Disneyland seems to be a paradise for kids -everything is designed for them, from the scale of the building (5/8) to the colorful design of the attractions and the rule that adults can’t be in disguise shows that it’s not their kingdom- and that the goal is to amuse children, Disney is a company, and so it’s a business. Consumerism is oriented toward children, the easiest consumer to persuade. Once children are initiated into consumerism, they can persuade their parents to buy products.

Ever since it was founded in 1923, the Disney brand has been in constant evolution. Disneyland was created to promote the Disney universe. In his book, Lukas defines theme parks according to different subjects (Oasis, Land, Machine, Show, Brand and Text), and one of the themes is the brand: for him Disneyland is actually a “brand identity”. What is a brand identity? It is the visible elements of the brand. In the park, the brand is present everywhere: from the shops at the entry to the characters and the food. Disney has its own design, which evolved with the time; its own logotype that represents the Sleeping Beauty Castle, and Mickey Mouse as a symbol. Each attraction has its own logo, but using the Sleeping Beauty as a logo of the company: using architecture that is between “real” (as a three dimensional décor) and “imagination” (in the movie) as a logo reminds that Disneyland is a built dream. The sleeping beauty castle is also part of a myth, Walt Disney planned on the top level of the building in Florida to have his own apartment for his family when they visited the park. The flat was not finished before he died, but the company decided in 2005 to continue the project, and in 2007 the suite was open, for VIP guest only. The brand is trying to attract celebrities and promote the park as a luxurious place, but it is not a new idea. When Walt Disney visited New York’s world fair he saw the VIP lounge club and exported the concept calling it the club 33. It is a secret club, the only place in the park where you can drink alcohol. The legend says that the name comes from the 33 original sponsors. It is located in the restaurant Red Wagon Inn. To be part of it, you have to pay $10,000 a year.
The brand identity is a reflection of how Walt Disney wanted the consumer to perceive his world. The “brand image” is how the customer pictures the brand in his mind. Disney uses a lot symbolism and logo, and on the Internet you can find a lot of websites trying to link Disneyland and Illuminati, or other secret societies. The creators of theses sites are convinced that the park and brand are not as simple as they look, and not that innocent. Going deeper than just the relationship between capitalism and the brand, they really think about a secret plot. By creating a brand specific to the park, Disney makes it a product of consumption. The effect of the brand on children is made on purpose and Walt Disney said, “I think of a child’s mind as a blank book. During the first years of his life, much will be written on the pages. The quality of that writing will affect his life profoundly.
Combining brand and architecture begins at the world’s fair, as Walter Benjamin explained, and Walt Disney went further on with this idea, by materializing the brand with a built space. It is even more powerful than a product, because it shares an experience, in a world where we have an abundance of objects and emotions. In the theme park, architecture serves both brand and plot. It creates a narrative space, where façadism and kitsch replaced functionalism. Lipovetsky talks about an “aestheticization of the world”: consumption is not only about a product, but also about the experience of it and the aesthetics of it. In Disneyland, it is exactly what happens.


Disneyland is also a park where children learn, for example in the futuristic area they can learn about new technologies, or they can even join a Disney Youth Education Program. They trust what they see. They often mix “fiction” and “reality”. In Disneyland it can be dangerous, because the barrier between both is thin. Each universe has its own characteristics and is from a movie or a period: it represents the world in a summarized way. Fantasyland is only about Disney fairy tales and the attractions are for the youngest public. You can enter in the Wonderland of Alice or the Castle of the Sleeping Beauty. The most controversial is maybe Adventureland, because of its “celebration” of colonialism. The main attractions are Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean and Aladdin. This last one is inspired by the cartoon of the same name, and also mixes historic periods and cultures. When you think about it and try to locate it, you could say it settles in the Middle East or India, while in the original story it takes place in China. They invented a city, “Agrabah”, changing the name of “Agra”, Taj Mahal’s town, princess Jasmine who lives in is dressed up with an Indian style, while the terrible Jaffar and his army are dressed up more like middle-eastern people, same influence as the buildings of the city and the market. A confusion is made, and we can ask if it’s because a lack of culture or a conscientious act of creating a global idea on a part of the world. Children are not aware of geography and other cultures, and they absorb them: it leads to create stereotypes. Aladdin is not the only example; the Cinderella’s castle in Disneyland Magic Kingdom is inspired by Bavaria’s castle, and gives to kids an idea of what is a Castle. Disney creates its own story (defined by Fjellman as “Distory”) and it is in a way “historicide”.

The leisure time of the “working class” is twice as much than hundred years ago, due to the changes of the hours of labor: leisure is a response to capitalism, because people work less, they had free time, labor unions were created, annual leave established. Entrainment is now a part of our life, and Disneyland is the incarnation of the middle class escapism. People are attracted by the spectacle, but also by the “illusion of danger”. In fact in the park the attraction represent a simulacrum of danger, where you have the sensation of falling down, but you know that it is safe, because of the security clauses. The attraction’s architecture is created to give you new sensations, exploring the fear of the void, speed, dark. Sometimes you don’t see anything during a while, or you have play on artificial lights like in Space Mountains, where suddenly a meteorite appears. But even if the danger is a simulacrum, the fear is not.
When Jean Baudrillard says “Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real when in fact all of Los Angeles and the America surrounding it are no longer real, but of the order of the hyper-real and of simulation” he raises the question of simulacra and simulation about the park itself. In fact Disneyland is a “fake” three-dimensional world, where the visitor tries to reassure himself he lives in a certain reality. It masks an absence of reality. In Disneyland, visitors are looking for imagination, while they are in fact miming life. In other theme parks like Kidzania it is even more obvious. (In this theme park, children are “playing” adults jobs and earning money).
When Baudrillard wrote “Simulacra and Simulation” in 1981 and “America” in 1986, the concept of this theme park wasn’t exported yet, but we can extend this definition to all Disneyland. It is interesting to see that the “need” of simulacra is common and was globalized also: It is not only a décor that is exported but also a whole way of living and perceiving life. Disneyland is an architecture of reassurance, because you have the sensation the place if safe, but also because of the fact that when you are going out of the park, back your day-to-day life, you have another experience. Disneyland is not only about the experience of the park itself, but also of the differences you have between an artificial place and the real city.
Disneyland became a icon, a mascot, the “major middle-class pilgrimage center in the United States”. During the September 11 attack, Disneyland closed during a few hours, because of a possible attack considering that the park is an emblem of the country, like the Twin Tower. When in the early eighties the company thought about creating other Disney parks in the world, they wanted to adapt it to the country. In Japan the first idea was to transform the Main Street into a “Geisha land”, but the sponsor rejected the idea, they bought the concept of the American Disneyland. Still they had to adapt it because of the different weather of Tokyo, and put a glass roof on it, converting it to a “World Bazaar”. Main Street’s parades changes depending on the year and seasons, but are played in all the Disneylands: it is the idea of different parks’ visitors in several countries having the same experience at the same time. The parade gather together all the characters of Disney, incarnates by disguised adults. They are part of the universe, and even if they are not living in the park as in the Lilliputian world, they often live next to it and have advantages. Disney published in 1966 Disneyland and You for their employees, where you can read that inside this “world” they were called by their character names, even by their employer.
Walt Disney can be considered as an urban planner. At the park’s scale he constructed a three- dimensional imaginary world, feed by his dreams and convictions. It is planned in every detail, everything is regulated, and there is no place for any change. Following the example of the castle, which finally is in papier-mâché and not in bricks, the employees have to adopt a “papier-mâché” posture, which becomes “real” in this imaginary word. Disneyland is not only an amusement park, but it is the embodiment of a brand. It influences people’s consumption through a new way of consumerism: entering the park is like entering a huge mall, with shops everywhere and strategies to make you buy more. Disneyland’s ideology is deeper than simple consumerism, but it is the myth of American small towns, people give a sentimental value to it. It reminds them of a part of their childhood, a collective memory about the past. Disney provides the perfect place to construct memories.
Disneyland is Walt Disney’s dream of what a city should be, which he would have explored deeply if we will be still alive and not placed into cryopreservation. But still, his ideas about urban planning –developed in the project EPCOT- rub off on the cities, through New Urbanism and cities like Celebration and later on Val d’Europe. From a park scale to a town scale, from a daily scale to a lifetime scale, the ideology embraces your life.


1 Karal Ann Marling, Designing Disney’s Theme Parks (Flammarion, 1997)
2 Rem Koolhaas, Delirious New York : a retroactive manifesto for Manhattan (The Monacelli Press, 1997)
3 Sol Bloom, The autobiography of Sol Bloom (Putnam’s sons, 1948) p 136
4 Scott Lukas, “Theme park as a brand” in Theme Parks (Reaktion books Ltd, 2008)
5 Jean-Michel Normand, « Disneyland Paris : un monde à part », M le magazine du Monde, March 2012
6 Karal Ann Marling, Designing Disney’s Theme Parks: The Architecture of Reassurance (Flammarion, 1996)
7 Website of Walt Disney World: http://www.wdwinfo.com/tips_for_touring/dress-code.htm
8 Fan page made with all the old tickets entrance of Disneyland Parks by “Jane”: https://www.jansworld.net/DL_Tickets.html
9 Richard Floglesong, “Married to the Mouse: Walt Disney World and Orlando” (Yale University Press, New Edition, 2003)
10 Summary of Project Future Seminar 1-5 (June 15, 1965) (on file with the Special Collections and University Archives, University of Central Florida)
11 TV show Special Assigment, « Disney Hidden World », February the 8th 2013.
12 From the exhibition « Dreams Come True » in New Orleans Museum of Arts (NOMA) in New Orleans, in November of 2009.
13  Hugh Cunningam, Children and childhood in Western Societies since 1500 (Pearson Education, 2005)
14   Except special days as Mickey’s Halloween Party)
15  Travis Reed, “Disney is dreaming big”, January the 27th, 2007, The Ledger.
16  As this website called “Disneyland Illuminati Imagery” http://wasteplease.wordpress.com/
17 Henry A. Giroux, The Mouse that roared: Disney and the end of innocence (Lanham, MD, 1999) p 17
18  Gilles Lipovetksy, L’esthétisation du monde: Vivre à l’âge du capitalisme artiste (Gallimard, 2013) p 15
19 “Real Buildings that Inspired Disney’s California Adventure” Werner Weiss, last modified March 22, 2011, http://www .yesterland.com/replicas-dca2.html
20  Jean Baudrillard, “Simulacra and Simulation” in Selected writing (Standfort University Press, Second Edition, 2002) p 175
21 Stephen Fjellman, Vinyl Leaves (Westview Press, 1992) p 10



Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulation. Translated by Sheila Faria Glaser (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995)
Baudrillard, Jean. La Société de consummation (Paris: Gallimard, 1996)
Brannen, Mary Yoko. “Bwana Mickey: Constructing cultural consumption at Tokyo Disneyland” in Re-
Made in Japan: Everyday Life and Consumer Taste in a changing society (Yale: Yale University Press, 1992) Bloom, Sol. The autobiography of Sol Bloom (New York: Putnam’s sons, 1948)
Debord, Guy. La Société du Spectacle (Paris: Gallimard, 1996)
Dick, Philip. War Game (New York: Galaxy Science Fiction Magazine, 1959)
Eyssartel, Anne Marie and Bernard Rochette. Des mondes inventés (Paris: Editions de la Villette, 1992) Fjellman, Stephen M. Vinyl Leaves: Walt Disney World and America (Institutional structures of feeling)
(Boulder: Westview Press, 1992)
Floglesong, Richard. Married to the Mouse: Walt Disney World and Orlando (Yale: Yale University Press, New Edition, 2003)
Giroux, A Henry and Grace Pollock. The mouse that roared: Disney and the end of innocence (Westview Press, 1992)
Karal Ann Marling. The Architecture of Reassurance (Montreal: Canadian Centre of Architecture, 1997) Koolhaas, Rem. “Coney Island” in Delirious New York: a retroactive manifesto for Manhattan (The Monacelli
Press, 1978)
Lukas, Scott A. “Theme Park as Brand” in Theme Park (Reaktion Books Ltd, 2008)
Lipovetsky, Gilles. L’ère du vide: Essais sur l’invidualisme contemporain (Paris: Gallimard, 1989)
Ottinger, Didier and Quentin Bajac. Dreamlands: des parcs d’attractions aux cités du futur (Catalogue du M, 2010)


“Dreamland”, Centre George Pompidou, Paris, May to August of 2010

Libellés : , , , , , ,

lundi 16 juin 2014

Stockholm Studio : done.

" Ce couvent de rude béton est une oeuvre d’amour. Il ne se parle pas. C’est de l’intérieur qu’il vit. C’est à l’intérieur que se passe l’essentiel. "
Le Corbusier
Le semestre s'achève, avec un jury qui rit aux éclats. Une présentation simple, pour 5 projets pas évident. Une école d'architecture, l'extension d'une galerie d'art, un crématorium, une bibliothèque et le centre du prix nobel. Comment arriver à donner une réponse cohérente aux trois projets, alors que nous sommes en binôme ?
L'amour des mêmes formes simples, pour résoudre un programme compliqué était un plus. Le goût pour les espaces ouverts et publics, l'urbanisme un autre. Mais surtout l'envie de rire, de s'éclater, parce qu'après tout les études d'architecture sont faites pour ça. 
5 axonométries, 5 planches de bande dessinées, 5 maquettes en plâtre et 5 books contenant une centaine de coupes qui forment ainsi une sorte de maquette en section en papier. Du travail, mais de la fierté.
Il serait un peu long d'expliquer les projets un à un, mais jugez vous même notre bande dessinée.



® Axel Borhaven, Armelle Breuil, ABBA Architects.

Libellés : , , , , , ,