23 August 2015

The organisation Bellastock applies an action-research methodology to promote experimentation in architecture to stimulate innovation and new learning process. It was initiated in 2006 by 3 students of Paris-Belleville architecture school because, build a full scale project is not part of the school curriculum.  The festival Bellastock is now expanding to other cities, countries, and activities.

The mission of the festival is to promote experimentation in architecture and the potential of construction material re-use. Architecture students from all parts of France unite to build an ephemeral city with salvaged materials. After living in it over a week-end, the city is dismantled and all the construction material goes back to original donors across all industries for it to be re-used without producing waste.  There are some simple principles that inform the programme:

Every year, the location and the imposed construction material is different

The 5 team-members have 3 days to build the shelter they are going to sleep in and design public space

The 3rd day is opened to the public to experience the temporary city

The site and construction materials must be returned in workable conditions after deconstruction in order to be re-used by the industries or factories that donated it.

Since 2009, some of the themes and material of the previous editions held in Paris and surroundings are:

Pallet-city / La ville en palettes  (2009): Using basic wooden pallets, the participants had to build sheds and public spaces. One of the main challenges was for the students not to cut or nail the wood and thus invent solutions that allowed them to create secure and robust fittings without making new holes. The pallets had to be returned in workable conditions to the company that donated them.

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Inflatable city / La ville en un souffle (2011): An inflatable city made out of plastic sheets and tape. All the sheds were joined together and inflated via a single air blower.

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Waterworld (2014): This floating edition of the festival invited the students to experiment in sustainable ways to build on the oceans. It addressed issues of relocation due to climate change and victims of global sea levels rising. On a lake in Archères an amphibian city rose, made of wood and plastic pipes.  The students  had to sleep on the raft, which ensured they were built properly and floated…

Photo credit:  François Clément

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Photo from Waterworld Portfolio

You can find the themes of every edition of the festival here – in French

Bellastock has expanded its activity and developed an advisory service run by the former students who initiated the festival and a lot of volunteers.  The organisation promotes experimentation in architecture as a means for innovation and learning processes. In 2013 Bellastock, via ACTLAB (a temporary laboratory established on the construction site) assisted with the dismantling of the Printemps warehouses in L’Île Saint-Denis (Paris). An eco-district housing project is going to replace the warehouses. Bellastock analysed how the construction materials from the dismantling could be re-used in the new housing project, implying the local community in the experiment.

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ACTLAB: A temporary laboratory about the changing  city

Due to the big success and the participation of foreign students Bellastock has now similar events organised in ChinaBelgiumChiliMexicoQuebecTurkeyGermany…  The festival has became a platform for sharing ideas, tools, methods, media and knowledge and allows each project to become an opportunity for new exchanges and partnerships.

Images taken from the Bellastock website 

Agile-City has previously looked at the theme of temporary architecture as an education program with the construction summer school ‘Hello Wood’.  You can read about it here