Bernard Lassus - Projects

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Colas Gardens

Le Jardin du Jeu des Saisons / Le Jardin de Pins / Le Jardin de l'Attente / Le Théâtre de Verdure, Paris, France, 2000–07

The Colas Gardens
Colas Gardens: (upper) Le Jardin du Jeu des Saisons; (lower) Le Théâtre de Verdure (© Bernard Lassus)

The Colas Gardens are a series of roof gardens designed for the headquarter of the multinational Colas Corporation. Using laser technique, perforated metal sheets are carved into playful forms of trees and shrubs. The owner of the garden is provided with four sets of these metal plants, each painted in different colors to represent the four seasons, and is invited to change his garden setting as he wishes. These roof gardens are both intricate play of color and form, and witty commentary on the relevance of the natural and the artificial, the collective and the individual, which are echoed in the names of the two main gardens-"play of seasons" and "theatre of greenery". The design strategies in these gardens take clear references from Lassus' earlier studies on landscape perception, color, tactility and visuality, that he explored through experimental projects such as the painted sticks in Artificial Flower (1972), the enamel balls in Artificial Bushes (Guénange, 1972) and the series of participative exhibitions shared the word "Jeax, Play" in their titles (1960s & 1970s).

Landscape of Rocks

Motorway 837, Crazannes, France, 1993–99

Landscape project at Crazannes Quarries
Landscape of Rocks along Motorway 837, Crazannes: The Temple of the Rocks (© Bernard Lassus)

The landscape project at Crazannes Quarries along Motorway 837 is unique. Its unconventional design process resulted in a work produced on site through close cooperation between the designer, the engineers, the workers and local people. Since the very beginning, Lassus' preoccupation was: We must avoid doing anything that would manifest a forceful passage across the site, for the idea is not to penetrate this site and scar it, but to traverse it so that it can be discovered. It would only take 2 minutes for a car to drive through this 3 km stretch of road. Both sides of the highway were sculpted and transformed into a landscape to be appreciated in high speed, mainly through excavating and clearing. Rest stops were designed to encourage further exploration of nature and history of the site. This project is a powerful example of Lassus' landscape approach centered on heteroditeand the dialogue between visual and tactile experiences.

Other Highway Landscapes

Angers-Tours motorway A85, 1996–99 / Alençon-Le Mans-Tours motorway A28, 1998–2000

Other Highway Landscapes
Map of landscapes along the Alençon-Le Mans-Tours Motorway A28.

At the beginning of 1980s, the French Ministry of Public Works was alerted by increasing complains about the destruction of road construction upon landscapes. Conflicts with the rural communities blocked more and more projects due to local concerns of environmental nuisance and cultural damages. Lassus was called by the ministry as an adviser to help find solutions, which led to a series of studies on human perception in motion. He was able to persuade the Ministry to pay respect to the living rural landscapes around the motorways and to carry out some experimental projects with the Society of Southern France Motorways (for the rest area of Nimes-Caissargue) and Cofiroute (for motorways A85 and A28).

Le Jardin des Retours

Rochefort-sur-Mer, France, 1982–2006

Le Jardin des Retours
Bernard Lassus, drawing for the labyrinth in Le Jardin des Retours (© Bernard Lassus)

The Garden of Returns is a park by the Charente River, around the site of an exceptional building—the 400 meter long historical Corderie Royale of Rochefort—which was part of a seventeenth century naval arsenal served as the base for soldiers and scientists sailing to the New World. In 1982, the town of Rochefort hosted a design competition for design proposals that would preserve the site's historical connection with foreign and exotic places, as well as would establish links between the town and the Corderie. Lassus' team won the first prize in 1982. The first phase came to an end in 1986, and the whole project continued until 2006. Specially designed zones, such as "The Labyrinth of Naval Battles", "The Garden of La Galissonière", "Rigging Area" and "The Stone Jetty", enact a pluralist memory of the place. The past, therefore, returns to contemporary life and breathes again through the mediation of a living landscape.

Design Competitions and Proposals

Jardin de la Anterior, 1975 / Jardin de la Planets, 1980 / Le Jardin des Tuileries, 1990 / Parc Duisburg-Nord, 1991

Design Competitions and Proposals
Bernard Lassus, drawing of the proposal for the design competition Parc Duisburg-Nord (© Bernard Lassus)

Proposals for various design competitions over the years enabled Lassus to explore and test his landscape approach, such as "hetrodite", "démesurable", "intervention minimale" and "théorie de défauts", etc.

Jardin de la Anterior was proposed for a park in the new town of L'Isle d'Abeau. The history of a new town does not lie in its buildings, but in the landscape elements over which it is built, and in the lives (humans and nonhumans) that made the region what it is.

Jardin de la Planets was Lassus' entry for the competition of the Parc de la Villette. It was short listed together with the scheme by Bernard Tschumi, but not built. Lassus' design proposed a new poetics of landscape, where the concepts of "démesurable" and depth are invoked to emphasize the significance of the imagination in formulating new ideas of space.

The other unbuilt proposals in the 1990s-Le Jardin des Tuileries and Parc Duisburg-Nord-explore this new poetics of landscape further in connection with historically significant sites. The designs adopt a method of archeology to reveal and reconstruct the overlapping strata, meanwhile taking into account the daily practical use of these gardens in multiple scales.

Earlier Experiments and Studies

Pointes Rouges, 1967 / Les Ambiances, 1970s / Les Habitants-paysagistes, 1980s / Buissons Optiques, 1993

Earlier Experiments and Studies
Early studies: (left) research on vernacular garden aesthetics for Les Habitants-paysagistes; (right) records from the experimental exhibition Pointes Rouges.

Lassus' innovative approaches in garden and landscape design have their roots in his earlier training, first as a painter in Fernand Léger's studio and second, as a kinestic artist interested in color and ambience in environmental design. Many of his experimental projects were inspired by the law of game—everyone can participate, the pattern of the work change constantly and none can determinate the outcome. The Game of Red Dots, for example, invites exhibition participants to draw at will on a sheet of paper with a red dot printed at the center, and then to place their drawings on the wall to form a spontaneous scene. These earlier experiments paved the way to Lassus' belief in inventive analysis of landscape; in his words, The heterogeneous is more receptive than the homogeneous.

In particular, one long-term research project in the 1960s, Les Habitants-paysagistes, aroused particular interest among anthropological circle and contributed to the incorporation of folk arts and vernacular aesthetics in Lassus' works.

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