At the Pavillon de Larsenal, the exhibition explores the connections between architecture and energy
The exhibition “Light Energies”, on view since November 9 at the Pavillon de l’Arsenal and designed by architect and engineer Rafael Ménard, explores the connections between architecture and energy. In particular, it presents six post-carbon landscapes of Ile-de-France, allowing us to open thinking about what our daily lives could look like tomorrow without fossil energy, relying as much as possible on locally produced renewable energies.
The links between energy and architecture were the subject of the thesis of Raphael Ménard, president of ARIB (“Energie, matière, architecture”, 2018). It is now an exhibition held from November 9, 2023 until March 17, 2024 in the Pavillon de l’Arsenal, designed by the architect and which has an “important scientific character”, as Marion Waller confirmed, during a visit on November 8. “For us, as an institution, it is important to say that this energy theme is also an architectural theme, a landscape theme, a spatial theme,” continued the General Director of Pavillon de Larsenal.
Energy is also “at the heart of the public debate, with the central theme of moving away from fossil fuels,” as witnessed by Raphael Ménard for his part. Before he unpacks the exhibition title “Light Energies”: “It is the energy of matter, and it is also the idea of seeing correspondences between energy and resources, what weighs the body converts energy, what it produces, what it consumes. Photovoltaic energies finally because it is also a subject of aesthetics and public acceptance, which is why the exhibition addresses issues of form and acceptability, empowering architects, landscapers, designers, ecologists…” With the intensification of the share of electricity in the energy mix, and the issue of infrastructure (wind turbines, photovoltaic installations, power plants nuclear, etc.) and their integration with the landscape already seems central.
Genealogy of energy forms
With a scenography also intended to be as light as possible and very open, the exhibition is organized in three parts, the first dedicated to the “genealogies of energy forms”. “We describe from the dawn of time until today the way in which humans have monopolized terrestrial forms of energy throughout the world and throughout history,” explains Raphael Ménard. Seven main families of energies are listed: live energy, hydraulic energy, wind energy, solar energy, geothermal energy, fossil energy, and nuclear energy.
The second, more technical part, to which the ARIB teams contributed, consists of the “Atlas of Energy Structures.” “We focused on France and tried to draw different maps of fairly common structures,” explains Raphael Ménard. “12 cases are studied, architectural objects (or living subjects) related to energy, and the exhibition arguments detail: nuclear power plant, coal power plant, hydropower plant, onshore wind turbine, offshore wind turbine, solar power plant, rooftop photovoltaics, Backbone, heat pump, gas boiler, window, insulation.These contemporary structures are “weighed” in terms of energy and matter and studied from the point of view of their spatial and environmental impact.
Finally, the third part, which has a “forward-looking dimension,” according to the architect, presents six post-carbon landscapes of Ile-de-France to describe what a world could look like without fossil energy. In still videos of six places representing the metropolitan area (a suburban street, Parisian rooftops, two agricultural plains, the Seine River, and the inner city), effects are added in order to incorporate discreet edits: wind turbine, climate furniture, sustainable industrial activities, light motion shapes, etc.
Thus, “each landscape shows a change in uses and describes production capacities that have been little explored so far, a sign of the convergence between energy demand increasingly oriented towards electricity and carbon-free domestic production,” the cartel explains. “It is also an exhibition to open public debate,” notes Rafael Ménard. Thus, in the example of Parisian surfaces, we see laundry being dried in the window, a practice banned in the capital but which nevertheless has refreshing virtues, thanks to the moisture emanating from the fabrics. We also see a ceiling painted white to play on the effect of whiteness, which is dear to Arieb’s boss. In other words, climate change adaptation must also be “a subject of aesthetic adaptation,” as the architect points out.