Swiss firm BUREAU A recently won first prize in Architecture in the Swiss Art Awards 2013 for one of their latest projects, "Parole - Champ-dollon 1/24." Although the project looks like a simple mouse cage, it comes with a strong message about complex social issues.
"Parole" is a sculptural cage that is a reinterpretation of a part of the Champ-Dollon--a prison in Geneva, Switzerland that is known for its maximum occupancy ratios. The project highlights the debates regarding the role of architects and architecture when it comes to commissions of an ethically questionable and politically charged nature, like building a prison. Furthermore, the project emphasizes that architects should use their skills and tools to create structures that raise awareness of these debates and challenge these commissions instead of "quietly" designing them and aiming for perfection to appease the clients.
Precisely scaled to the ratio of laboratory mice at 1:24, "Parole" also addresses ongoing global issues in prisons like overcrowding and confinement in small spaces.
Scroll further to check out some images and read the press release we received from BUREAU A.
"In Switzerland there is a current trend for professional tranquility and particularly so in the world of architecture where architects prefer to satisfy their commissions in studied silence. Everything is in the doing and doing as perfectly as possible. All is in how to answer properly, more than in the question itself. Open discussions on any kind of commitmentare simply inexistent. Restricting the culture of architecture to the construction of buildings, however interesting and innovating the project might be, is to limit the field of their discipline. Architecture has always been about the projection of spaces, whether these might be built or just imagined. If a broader way of embracing the practice is to be admitted, their architect’s position vis-à-vis society and questions of politic scould emerge in a smother way."
"The emblematic figure of Claude Parent shows us the difficulties the architect faces when confronted with the power of the establishment. Designing both sculptural experiments with André Bloc, practicing ‘architectures-principe’ with Paul Virilio and the construction of nuclear power stations, the architect’s work is eponymous of the complexity of the subject."
"When it comes to approaching ethically questionable commissions the interrogation is not simply whether an architect is to build, or not, a prison, or whether he or she is right in accepting such a project, but rather how, through his architectural skills and tools, create a zone where debate can arise. Architecture must not shy away from the essential questions regarding institutions as powerful, violent and determining as a jail house and even more so in a period of global over-crowding."
"Somewhere Between the area of scientific experimentation and the socio-psychological testscarried out byStanley Milgram or Philip Zimbardo in the 1970’s, PAROLE is a proposal to open the debate of commitment in the field of architecture. Using a partial reproduction of the Geneva prison of Champ-Dollon, today known for its maximum occupancy ratios, adapted precisely to the scale of laboratory mice (1:24), PAROLE is an attempt demonstrates how architecture can seize to the question in hand."
"In the tradition of sculptural architecture as defined by Michel Ragon in the sixties, formal experiments can be utilised in order to reveal engagement in the face of social and political issues of any historical time. PAROLE is a symbolical object that defines itself along the borders of artculture, architectural models and a constrained living space: the cage. The fragility of its architecture is a reflection of the precarious situation of a profession sitting uneasily between cultural and historical roots and the inevitable search for power and control, between the architect builder and the utopist one systematically refusing the system."
Click the thumbnails to see additional images or click here for more info.
All photos by Dylan Perrenoud.