In Venice, France's Perrault reinvents architectural 'voids'
French architect Dominique Perrault is sanguine about the future, viewing even urban sprawl as an opportunity rather than a scourge.
The challenge will be in managing the available space, he told AFP.
"We are in a finite world, which is completely new compared with a time like for example that of Christopher Columbus," said Perrault, who is in charge of France's pavilion at Venice's architectural Biennale this year.
"But even in this finite world there is still a lot of space that is available to us, which needs to be respected, protected and managed," he said.
The French pavilion, under the banner "Metropolis?", offers floor-to-ceiling videos providing bird's-eye views of the expanding French cities of Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux and Nantes to show the "breadth of the void's presence... the full scope of new territories and the possibilities they offer."
Perrault, 57, known for his love of right angles and his signature creation, the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, said: "With 'Metropolis?' we have put the spotlight on the presence of the void, that is, these spaces that are made up of roads, squares, rivers and so on."
Evoking "the arrival of (father of psychiatry Sigmund) Freud into architecture," he said: "There is a kind of unconscious world that begins to appear because we are in a situation that forces us to become aware that we are in a physical world which has a limit, which I find very exciting."
The recipient of top honours such as the Equerre d'Argent and the Grand Prix Nationale d'Architecture urged a more modest role for the architect, moving away from that of creating "extraordinary, emblematic buildings" to one of "sheltering and protecting human groupings."
Defending a much criticised urban renewal plan advocated by President Nicolas Sarkozy to improve transport links and housing in the greater Paris area, Perrault said he was "very optimistic" of its prospects, adding: "The idea of a greater territory is something that is indisputable, inevitable."
Like it or not, "a massive transformation of European territory is under way," he said, adding: "Little by little we will see in Europe, instead of a grid of cities, as we were saying just five years ago, a grid of metropolises."
His prediction: "In about 10 years, everything will have changed."
Ever positive, Perrault also predicts: "The car, once it stops stinking and making noise, will transform the planet. Our relationship with the car will be more peaceful."
© 2010 AFP