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It’s Time to Defend Other Ways of Living

Thursday 12 April 2018

All the versions of this article: [English] [français] [Português]

With the announced destruction of homes at the ZAD in a gigantic police/army operation, Patrick Bouchain, Gilles Clément, Michel Lussault, Dominique Gauzin-Müller, Isabelle Stengers, Thierry Paquot and some hundred other architects, urban theorists, and intellectuals are publishing a call for a “Defense of Other Ways of Living.” In it they stress the wealth of the self-built habitats at the ZAD and the re-appropriation of knowledge and experience of vernacular architecture that has been going on there for several years. They affirm how much this vision of habitat corresponds profoundly and positively to the search for the new societal choices that are so necessary today. They express their opposition to “the eviction of the residents of the ZAD and the destruction of collective forms of organization and atypical constructions that have developed and are developing there.”

Their appeal was published today [in French] on Médiapart with the signatories’ names and is translated below:

It’s Time to Defend Other Ways of Living

On 17 January 2018, the abandonment of the planned airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes marked the success of one of the longest struggles France has ever known and represents significant hope for everyone taking part in the struggle to protect the environment. And yet the government is still threatening to raze the Zone [the police/army assault on the ZAD began at 3 a.m. on 9 April (ed. note)]. That is why we architects, urban theorists, thinkers, citizens, and others have mobilized to write this Op-Ed and defend the experiment in the future that is the ZAD.

The victory against the airport was the result of a broad and diverse mobilization. Among the many forms of struggle that contributed to it, resistance through permanent occupation of the "Zone to Defend" (Zone à Défendre – ZAD) was of prime importance. By continuing to keep the territory alive, both old and new residents, for more than ten years, have prevented the destruction of natural and agricultural land. They have been custodians of these spaces by building new forms of collective organization and developing activities – woodworking, baking, community gardening and grain growing, forestry, a library, orchards, a brewery, cheese-making, preserves-making, a forge, a tannery, a medicinal-herbs shop, music, silkscreen printing, and more. In doing so they have demonstrated that it is possible to live differently, far from the State’s scenarios of an industrialized and standardized agriculture, both through alternative modes of construction and through ways of imagining a viable and sustainable future for rural and agricultural areas.

A shared territory

In this woodland-wetland-agricultural area, a diversity of approaches to living have been invented and woven together, with the aspiration of achieving greater harmony with the land the inhabitants occupy. Through the interactions between the “historical” residents, small farmers, squatters, neighbors, wild and domesticated animals, grasses, insects and trees, but also with everyone who comes there – friends, students, militants, travelers, artisans –, a shared territory has been built, beyond the concept of property, beyond habits and material loyalties. This full-scale, life-size, long-term experiment influences each individual to evolve in his/her conceptualizations and practices, well beyond this particular area of land alone. And for that reason, the joyous horizon to which the ZAD points the way, of life elsewhere and otherwise than in the metropolises, is relevant for all of us.

Living and building differently

The ZAD is also the adventure of what has been built there. This includes old farm buildings that have been renovated by collective work crews, new agricultural buildings with impressive wood structures; it is also the poetic force of the many cabins in the trees, in the middle of a lake, in the corner of an abandoned plot or a field; it is also the presence of light or nomadic habitats – trucks, camping trailers, yurts – that complete the inhabited landscape.

Non-standard, multiple, diverse, poetic, adapted, "seat-of-the-pants" engineered, lightweight, unadorned, precarious, built of local and salvaged materials, of wattle, wood, straw, or scrap, these constructions respond, at their particular scale, to environmental and energy challenges in ways that go against the grain of the world the concrete-and-steel industry is building everywhere on our planet. They are also the result of an architectural, manual, creative do-it-yourself, jury-rigged inventiveness encouraged by the collective stimulation of the ZAD, which encourages people, both old hands and beginners, to re-appropriate the act of building. The multiplicity of built forms demonstrates possibilities for inhabiting and building that escape the logic of real estate and property management, essentially based on speculation and which leave little leeway for residents and architects to propose alternative solutions.

Anyone who has visited this territory and/or participated in its projects knows the value of the forces that have renovated these farms and built these cabins and yurts. Because, far from the image of autarchy that has been put forward, the ZAD is a space of passage, of exchange, a place that has become a school; a school of life, but also a school of living and building.

What is at stake is the invention of a contemporary vernacular forged from a combination of vital planetary issues and local materials. What is at stake is also the defense of a living, breathing capital issued from a struggle waged in solidarity and which opens up our imaginations.

Refuse the destruction of the ZAD

We are aware that making our sources of energy cleaner, our buildings more environmentally friendly, and our cities greener will not be enough to ensure a sustainable, livable future. The importance of finding lifestyle forms that consume less energy and resources and in which we can become fully engaged, therefore, calls on us to defend the ZAD, its residents, and their living spaces.

Given the complexity of the situation, the debate concerning legality cannot reach any kind of resolution through sudden action, force, and destruction. That is why a moratorium on the status of the parcels of land and the institution of dialogue, as called for by the anti-airport movement, is the only proposal that makes sense.

We therefore hereby express our opposition to the eviction of the residents of the ZAD and the destruction of the collective forms of organization and atypical construction that have developed and are developing there. We commit ourselves to defending what is being experienced and experimented there and affirm that these new ways of building and of living are legitimate and necessary today given the issues and challenges facing our societies.

Initial Signers:

  • Sylvain Adam, APPUII association
  • Maud Alpi, filmmaker
  • Marie-Helène Bacqué, sociologist and urban theorist
  • Jean-Baptiste Bahers, engineer
  • Ludivine Bantigny, historian
  • Thibault Barbier, engineer, landscape architect and urban planner, Atelier Georges
  • Julien Beller, architect
  • Alec Boivin, architect
  • Christophe Bonneuil, historian
  • Alain Bornarel, engineer, ECP
  • Patrick Bouchain, architect
  • Florence Bouillon, sociologist and anthropologist
  • Baptiste Boulba-Ghigna, screenwriter and philosopher
  • Andréas Campagno, architect
  • Thibaud Cavailles, doctoral candidate in geography, urban theory, and planning
  • Benjamin Chambelland, landscape architect
  • Paul Chantereau, architect
  • Pierre Charbonnier, philosopher
  • Alexandre Cheikh, architecture student
  • Mathieu Cirou, urban planner, esPASces POSSIBLES
  • Gilles Clément, landscape architect
  • Philippe Declerk, architect and anthropologist
  • Pierre de Jouvancourt, philosopher
  • Frantz Daniaud, urban planner, esPASces POSSIBLES
  • Agnès Deboulet, sociologist
  • Denis Delplancke, agronomic engineer
  • Malou Delplancke, biologist
  • Marion Delplancke, actress-director
  • Maléna Demierre, film editor
  • Philipe Descola, anthropologist
  • Grégory Deshoullière, doctoral candidate in anthropology
  • Yvan Detraz, architect, Bruit du frigo
  • Julien Dupont, artisan
  • Guillaume Faburel, geographer
  • Jean-Michel Fourniau, sociologist
  • Caroline Gallez, research director at IFSTTAR (Institute of French Science and Technology for Transport, Advanced spatial planning, development and network Research)
  • Chloé Gautrais, architecture student
  • Dominique Gauzin-Müller, architect
  • Barbara Glowczewski, anthropologist
  • Guillaume Gourgues, political scientist
  • Gerald Gribé, architect
  • Luc Gwiazdzinski, geographer
  • Emilie Hache, philosopher
  • Nicolas Haeringer,
  • Edith Hallauer, docteur of urban theory
  • Cyrille Hanappe, architect
  • Georges Heintz, architect
  • Michèle Jeannin, teacher
  • Pascale Joffroy, architect
  • Tibo Labat, architect
  • Christophe Laurens, architect
  • Jérôme Lèbre, philosopher
  • Olivier Leclerq, architect
  • Fanny Lopez, lecturer, ENAV&T Marne-la-Vallée
  • Michel Lussault, Geographer
  • Philippe Madec, architect
  • Pierre Mahey, sociologist
  • Baptiste Martin, cabinetmaker and architect, Strasbourg
  • Catherine Martin-Payen Dicko, filmmaker and museographer
  • Claire Mélot, architect, Berlin
  • Germain Meulemans, anthropologist
  • Nicolas Monnot, Archivox, Common Langage, Civic Design
  • Thomas Moreau, urban planner and writer at Ballast
  • Damien Najean, architect
  • Etienne Pageault, designer
  • Thierry Paquot, philosopher
  • Julien Perraud, architect
  • Alessandro Pignocchi, comic-strip author
  • Geneviève Pruvost, sociologist
  • Timothée Raison, architect and carpenter
  • Mattia Paco Rizzi, architect and artist
  • Mathias Rollot, architect
  • Isabelle Stengers, philosopher
  • Armelle Tardiveau, architect
  • Céline Tcherkassky, architect, ICI
  • Sezin Topçu, historien des sciences
  • Jean-Louis Tornatore, socio-anthropologist
  • Margaux Vigne, landscape architect
  • Jean-Louis Violeau, sociologist
  • Collectif Etc, builders and architects
  • Les saprophytes, landscapers’ and architects’ collective
  • Atelier Fil, architects
  • Collectif mit, architects
  • Vacance Collective, builders’ and architects’ collective
  • Quatorze, architects’ collective
  • Collectif Formes Vives, graphic artists
  • Champ Libre, socially-oriented cooperative