It’s the end of the world, and it’s been going on for a while

It’s the end of the world, and it’s been going on for a while

@f. Compelleran

On October 25, 2023, the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (CESE) revealed its diagnosis of the concerns of the French. Quoted the world (10/25), alerts the government to three key themes: perception of inequality, purchasing power, and environmental concern.

Inequality and interconnected purchasing power are nothing new under the sun. But environmental anxiety? Moreover, the daily newspaper explained to us on October 13 that the National School of Agricultural Engineering of Toulouse will soon offer its students and employees a dedicated course “ To combat environmental anxiety, a feeling increasingly found among her students “And elsewhere, this headline: Environmental anxiety grips the youth! Damn it!

Wikipedia notes that eco-anxiety or eco-anxiety is a new term that refers to all emotions associated with a sense of inevitability regarding various environmental crises. In other words, the end of the world.

Which, however, continues to be repulsed despite 2,000 years of processions of Knights of the Apocalypse, of all ranks, Knights elsewhere. The only constant over the centuries is that the fear trade remains a sure and quick way for the ambitious to make their fortunes. Remember those Americans who invested in a bunker that was supposed to protect them from Russian nuclear bombs. Remember also that one day of war brings up to a few years of peace for all.

There is no denying the severe climate disruptions to come. The surprises will undoubtedly be bad, but no more and no less than, say, the invention of artillery in the 15th century.H Century, French invention – but who’s there to make you sick? Unless it enriches the pharmaceutical industry lobby, which never suffers from the turmoil of humanity…

This environmental anxiety among many young people and vaccinated people strongly resembles a kind of nostalgia for the past, for the way things used to be better and the poor among us who will die of environmental anxiety, having been abandoned by men and gods. Then there is the war in Eastern Europe and the Middle East and a number of remaining atrocities around the world. So heat island during the holidays? Oh, my God ! Quickly psychic cell!

Specifically, since we’re talking about nostalgia for the anti-nuclear refuge and the good times that used to be, let’s look back to the last century. While the human mind erases bad memories from its memory, everyone loves to remember the glorious thirty years, but the twentieth century is the First World War, millions of dead, a generation of young people wiped out by grape bullets and mustard gas, and then the crisis of the Second World War. “29, millions of poor people, then another world war, and deaths in the tens of millions this time, in horrific conditions, on all continents, then again the famine of the Ukrainian kulaks, who died in the millions, as well as the Chinese who ate their food.” Pigtails, then the Khmer Rouge – I wonder if the Cambodians were wary of the Khmer Rouge? -And then all the colonial wars and their bloodbaths in illuminated paths. Spanish flu, tuberculosis, polio, etc. It’s true that we had a good laugh at that time. Fortunately, our fathers did not hang themselves in despair.

We can go back from century to century without finding in our country a period of prosperity and peace like the one we know in France. Water, gas and internet on all floors. Environmental anxiety? Halloween?

In my position as an architecture journalist, I am faced with a paradox: if this is the end of the world, why do architects continue to work hard and deliver new buildings every day, new or rehabilitated? If that isn’t a particularly futile task!

I was thinking about all this because a few days ago, together with the architect Anne Forgia (ARTEO), I visited the renovation of two social housing buildings in the new city of Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, in Montigny-le-Breton more precisely. Let us first note that these new cities are no longer new: the evidence, after 50 years, is that housing renovation is necessary. Welcome to the national building site where they were all built roughly at the same time. There will be work at Saclay in 50 years, especially judging by the current state of most of our higher education institutions.

However, in San Quentin, the renovation of these two typical buildings of their time – on the slab, and the residence above the shopping center – was carried out according to the rules of art. The challenge did not lie only in resolving some disturbances related to the passage of time or in responding to common climate issues, but rather in expressing the value of architecture, not in the artistic dimension, but in its urban and architectural dimensions.

No doubt other architects would have achieved the same result, but it was ARTEO that won the competition and the project delivered lives up to the ambition of the city and the agency. If, barring disaster, the pace of renovations in the city takes place in stages with results of this quality, the Britigny “area” of Saint-Quentin, which is certainly very interesting today, will still be so in 50 years when the ARTEO building in turn will be built. It must be subject to review.

To be convinced of this, it is enough to look at what most of our medium-sized cities have become within fifty years. Angers, Nantes, Bordeaux, and Montpellier were no longer the quiet, dusty country towns they had been; An alien returning from Mars would have a hard time recognizing them. For some, just over 50 years ago, they were in ruins!

« Rebuilding the city upon the city, there is nothing new about that “, emphasizes Anne Forgia. Keep in mind again that ARTEO not only provides housing for rehabilitation, but also a museum here, a sorting center there, a college…

In short, there are thousands of new or renovated buildings that will be delivered in 2023 by an architect, in France alone! Now, if I’m not mistaken, these buildings, including the ARTEO buildings, are in turn supposed to last at least 50 years, until the next renovation, and it’s a safe bet that in 50 years, barring a plague of horrific proportion, there will still be people living in them Or they use or visit it, including grandchildren who are worried about the economy today, if they are not afraid to have children, if they still can, but that is another topic. In short, there will still be people alive and well complaining about high rent prices!

Otherwise, you’d have to have a really twisted mind to think that all that public and private money invested in new and renovated housing, in museums, gyms, stadiums, and offices won’t be for nothing! That would be annoying! And once, looking at a tax form, is enough to hang yourself!

I agree it is terrifying to be born on a dangerous planet but there is no alternative. However, to combat, or even cure, environmental anxiety, major postgraduate agricultural studies may not be needed as in Toulouse; It is enough for patients, if they want to sleep peacefully, to watch the architects at work!

Moreover, in 2075, when it is time to renovate the housing and structures delivered today, there is no doubt that the architects of that time will have new tools to achieve this and that they will know how to do it. At least that’s what we hope.

But what is certain is that the fear of the end of the world will be more important, as nothing scares you more than survival. Moreover, everyone with the means is free today as yesterday to build a safe haven.

Hello architect?

Christophe Leary

* Read the project presentation: In Montigny-Le-Bretonneux, 98 residential units were rehabilitated by ARTEO Architects

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