Eric Arsenault Architecture


Lecture : looking for a creative context

Eric Arsenault is giving a lecture on "Looking for a creative context" at 19:00 on 27th October at Rudolf Steiner House, 35 Park Road, London NW1 (Baker Street Station) - Entrance Fee £5

Architecture and creative context: looking for sense

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Talk poster
Creative context

Do good or bad architects exist? I personally would say no. There are only people who believe it and for me the aim is to generate a context that enables people to create.

Let’s try to define how important is the environment of creation. I can give a few examples from childhood to my current work. (These examples will be broadly developed through the talk).

  1. Avoid pressure or stress :
    • When I received my first mecano game, I wasn’t able to create what adults were expecting from me. But...
    • When I first got a job in Nevers, the architect told me without indication, please draw me a nice front elevation. I began to sweat a lot. No indications, I hadn’t been on the site and moreover I was just asked to do a nice drawing that was without context in conflict with my aspirations.
  2. Just be yourself
    • As a student, I was told in a family meal that it wasn’t worth it to try creating because any shape you could imagine had already been done. I answered that every day there were several billions of births and everybody is different.
    • Alberto Gicometti used to spend time in the Louvre but he got more and more depressed until the day he decided to create with his weaknesses
    • I often notice that artists I’m fond of are no more than themselves, deeply natural.
  3. Be able to share ideas : ideas are in the air. Who do they belong to? It doesn’t matter. Speak about your project, don’t be afraid to re-examine yourself, even with the client, the project is often better afterwards. In a way, doing architecture is learning to love. To love workmates, site, brief, context, clients...
  4. Importance of creation: no more than generating peace! Once I was in the Eurostar coming back from London...
Giving sense

There is such a gap between studies and the professional world. What is society building for? This question is never asked. Developers will say : “build me 50 dwellings” and I will build 50 dwellings, “draw a hospital and I will draw a hospital”, “do a school” and will do it…but for which activities, which sense, which link between people, between spaces, between surroundings and between all these topics?

What is the sense of your project, for which society ?

A month ago, I came back to a nursing home to solve some joinery problems. I had completed this project two years ago, inspired by a trip to Japan. But I just could fall down in distress because of the TV loudly on with no life around…Was a huge nursing home the right answer for the small town of Chateau-Chinon, Morvan, France?

For every subject we are building for e.g. housing, teaching, aging, it becomes essential to set up previous reflexion. It will give the essence of the project, and will affect the spaces, the relationships, the life and the shapes. We can’t ignore - consciously or not - that there is a sense behind the layout of every project: how do we want to live ? to organize life ? to share spaces or not? to develop links with our surroundings ?

A project needs reflexion to be defined. Not only for functional or technological purposes but for its philosophy to enhance its propositions of spaces and finally of architecture.

It is important to help every client define and specify his brief. To give and to put more reflexion on it, to provide a complete programme from enthusiastic abilities to realistic technical functionalities…

I will introduce the last project I’ve been delivering: 2 toilets in the countryside for bikers riding on the “Loire à vélo”.


Sustainable architecture is above all, the capacity to make choices for any human being (not to put solar panels on a roof).

Take a look around, you’ll soon discover that you know almost nothing about the origins of the materials in the room you are in at the moment: the material’s background, consistency, the way they have been extracted, places they come from, trips they have done, wages earned by the workers; painting, plasters, PVC, glass, metals, resins, insulation, panels, building blocks: what do we know about their origin? What are they made of? Where do they come from?

This knowledge is the base of a sustainable (ecologic) world, not more, not less. The ability of knowing the origin of material gives understanding and opens the way to choices.

The idea would be to collect on a website the main information from every common product and from every environmental product. For that, firms would be asked about the traceability of their products. A map of the world, of the country, would be established, showing the trip of the materials, their transformation, showing the increase of their price...

Just a click to get the information.

Four questions about economy

A great majority of projects are (only) made to earn money. But money is a way not a goal. This is the current mistake. The question of sense is forgotten (see above) and has been lost. Lack of sense generates a depressive society.

If you go as far as possible in that way of saving money you will build the cheapest construction for the cheapest price and finally no more buildings, no more workers, no more human beings.

The point is to develop a confident line between clients, builders and engineers, to try new approaches for negotiating, the right price for the right construction, what a computer can’t do. Decision is a human approach. A confident line is also a human approach.

Where does money come from? If it comes from a bank, how is it managed? Then we come back to a question of traceability, and probably to ethical questions. Everything concerns everybody.

Looking forward

Gathering a team who would begin by meeting twice a month to define:

  • Priorities among the wide range of possible investigations
  • Knowledge, thoughts, approaches that could be disclosed
  • Advertising (web, talks, meetings…)
  • Researches of funders interested in this approach
  • Looking for commissions
  • Developing new products and marketing them
  • Unused spaces and premises
  • Elderly
  • School, education
  • Housing
  • Traceability
  • Design prefabricated products
  • Design bespoke non prefabricated products!
Parallel initiatives

For musicians : Improvisation & Music workshops

The purpose will be to develop abilities to improvise in any situation, alone with an audience or in a band without. There are links between architecture and music, improvising from scratch to draft, following notes or ideas, improving your capacities to move and to listen and to be at the right place at the right moment.
The thing would be to improvise in a concert situation giving the best part of yourself with no preparation except silence

Every initiative that can improve the human being is welcome