Eric Arsenault Architecture

What one gives

"What do you give, if you do not give time? "

This sentence recently heard in a movie (Dance avec lui) was a shock to me. Indeed it is the basis of a reflection at the heart of my concerns: time management.

In the era of all communications in general and Internet in particular, the question of what and where to give time arises more than ever today. Sorting the information, accepting it, rejecting it: you can not read everything or absorb everything, that is impossible. Then, a sixth sense must be used (rarely valued by the media): intuition and common sense. They alone will enable us to do the synthesis and choices that suit us. Implementing them is another matter.

Who to give to? I answer simply that one must think to be generous with others and with oneself. When both parties agree, the answer is close. Easy to say!

As a proof, Jancyr [*] has recently given me a good lesson in humility : to me who had come to check out the site before the show, Jancyr proposed to sit down and have a good talk. What could be more natural? And here I was telling him that I did not really have time. Is it not cheeky to answer in this way to a man who has just spent (benevolently) weeks to organise an exhibition to receive us, architects? Jancyr then whispered (ironically) "it is true, I also have nothing else to do than to prepare this exhibition". I was knocked out. I thought to myself, you’re kidding little guy ... and I sat down with him. Anyway, his response had literally sat me down, and I spent a good half hour with him, learning a lot about the local artistic development!

I often say that time spent on a project is a guarantee of quality. Take the time. Take time to reflect, to ask questions, to love, to be enthusiastic. It is the only truth in the quality of a project. The time we spend on it. Neither too much nor too little: the right time (a question of intuition and common sense!).

We architects are not machines on which a button is pressed to produce a project, it would in fact be a real mess if this could be done. Because with time I realize that the strength of a project lies precisely in the path to achieve it.

So I decided for this "Jancyr’s last exhibition" to present the smallest of my current projects, but which has not received any less of my attention, with time spent as befits its fine tuning. There is no small project, rightly say some architects ; only small minds add some others!

Initially, it is a simple shelter for an indoor swimming pool [*]. At the end it is still a shelter for a swimming pool. In the meantime, I spent hours with my clients to achieve the extension of their house (I quickly realized that we touched something which had to do with the culmination of a life time, at least a key moment for them and that it deserved to be respected).

Thus have been repeatedly reflected upon: proportions, materials, search for a carpenter willing to make a curved metal frame, search for a locksmith providing large windows without overlap, details of walls / roof / rainwater fittings, joinery and sun shade details, pool duckboards, colour trials, interior wood stain (the project is still ongoing at this level), alignment of the brick joints, patterns, never seen before pergola prototype with taught canvasses and fine tuning of it after the first rain ...

This project has matured and developed over three years, leaving time for digestion between each stage - a real luxury for a project and I can only thank my clients for their full trust.

During a conversation, after the delivery of the project, the clients told me that they had abandoned their TV watching in the evening just to sit and enjoy the space - not to mention their new lifestyle consisting of swimming every morning before going to work ...

I believe that over 50% of the success of a project lies in the relationship between the architect and his client. Regrettably, this point is often overlooked. Contrary to what happens in other art related trades, the architect does not sell his production, he must negotiate with his client to make it exist.

As for the superb photos of Deschanel, they are presented here to say: "go and visit". For what is shown here, is not architecture, but pictures. That’s the drama: to be satisfied with the photos only, as beautiful as they may be. The architecture is seen in 3, 4 or 5 dimensions (if you include travel, weather, smells, sound ...). I insist, because the current "zapping" trend tends to induce satisfaction with pictures instead of the buildings themselves. We, the architects of the exhibition, will therefore be the only ones not to expose the originals!

The fact remains that Deschanel reaches great heights with these photographs, which are real works of art.

Thank you all for this adventure, thanks to the adventurers.

Thanks to Jancyr who sows his time in our hearts, and which we harvest in our landscapes.

Nevers, 4th November 2009
Eric Arsenault, architect