The members of the Constructlab network share a set of core values and their projects can be seen as a field of experimentation to explore them. These values apply to the choice of projects, design methods and materials, to the working conditions of the people involved, and to the cohabitation with the territories in which they operate. In order to define their focus, we have grouped them into five themes, even though their relevance and content are highly interrelated and interdependent.
Climate Activating
Screwing things together is fun – but what about unscrewing them? Sorting the screws? In the face of the global climate crises, we are all dealing with these days, we recurrently discuss certain aspects of sustainability within Constructlab projects and how to establish them: the circularity of processes, efficient, economical and minimal construction methods, the long-term use of designs - regardless of authorship, ownership and location. Anchoring these considerations in our practice often means keeping the development process open and changing direction when we encounter environmental issues, putting aside thoughts of progress and returning to knowledge of materials and vernacular techniques.
Engaging with Territories
Constructlab's portfolio is the sum of many projects. They often involve negotiations with landscapes and their inhabitants, teams working at different scales, local regulations, working conditions, materials, partners and resources. The combination of these elements give life to what we sometimes call a ‘territory’ and/or a ‘community’. Our practice aims to make them more visible, accessible, understandable in different ways and not to overshadow their presence with construction. To achieve this, we create new narratives and create infrastructures and designs that amplify low voices and strengthen alliances. While sharing our tools and cultivating permeability and horizontality rather than efficiency, we are learning from indigenous communities, their cosmovisions and cosmopolitics. And through this process, we are also learning among ourselves, through moments of self-reflection and resonance.
Learning processes do not always happen on the surface. Sometimes they result from repetition (as in our Mont Réel project), from mistakes, experimentation (as they have happened in our project Le cours de l’eau, la cour et l’eau), from improvements and coincidences. And as always, when multiple actors work collaboratively, learning also emerges through changes in perspective, through the coming together of different experiences and expertise, through compromise. Sometimes learnings are scientific, empiric, performative, uncertain, joyful, sometimes they emerge in interaction with an object or subject (like in The Arch project). Sometimes they finish a process. Sometimes they are the beginning of a new chapter.
On the Network
Constructlab's roots are collective, just as its structures are international. As a result, we are often unable to meet in person on a regular basis and have to find other ways of exchanging ideas and plan future steps. Implementing our practice in the form of a network is our strategy for overcoming the challenges of physical separation while cultivating and empowering collaborative methods. This occasionally leads to a simultaneity of things and procedures, which shapes our work in a positive, albeit challenging, way. Celebrating the communal when we finally come together helps us to strengthen our bonds and grow closer together. And even though this celebration of community is in some ways a staging of our every day reality as a transnational network, it results in real relationships that project shared visions into future endeavors.
Performing Togetherness
Our projects are not classic building projects, not jobs that happen alongside life, but ones that involve it. Since we often move to a place for a certain period of time, our construction sites become micro-villages, temporal homes or summer camps. The facilities that result from this not only cover the basic needs of the crew, but also include conceivable meeting spots like kitchens, pizza ovens, coffeeshops, saunas and agoras – hubs for everyday interactions and interventions that repeatedly interfere with traditional work processes.The result of this is a performative embodiment of togetherness: the group acts on a daily base as a community, with choreographed gestures that turn the cohabited place into a home, a spectacle, a party. Food always plays a central role in this and eating dishes together that were prepared from local products is a strong bonding agent. Not only those who accompany the construction are invited to the table, but also local actors, neighbors and sightseers which leads to an openness of the process, a multiplication of our entitlement to conviviality.