The “Communities at work” project aims to reflect on the meeting between architectural know-how and the inhabitants’ own experiences of their living spaces. This transversal approach to the profession is an attempt to shed light on the implications of architecture in a contemporary world subject to massive changes.

The exhibition presents a journey of the spirit through architecture, by means of five specific case studies on different continents: in Europe, Asia, America and Africa. The aim is to offer an optimistic vision of a world where communities act directly on their living spaces and daily lives.

The different approaches do not follow a formal, theoretical schema designed by an architect, choosing instead to bear witness to the slow and multiple transformations of living spaces by their inhabitants. Communities appear to be the most relevant resources to transform lived environments, thereby producing new ways of considering “spatial” contracts using a bottom-up approach.

The performative aspect of the residents, of uses, of life in all its forms, is taken into account in the process of the project by a precise and indeterminate architecture. Improvisation is used as a possibility to transform living environments, considered here as “Works in Progress”. Through their actions, the communities at work appropriate their environments, thereby creating common spaces where the management of their living spaces is open to debate.

Faced with human and material waste, we propose a change of perspective on life that already exists everywhere, and the means for a discerning, precise and delicate strategy to enhance it. We present documentaries on communities at work in the transformation of their daily environments, in France, but also throughout the world: in Johannesburg, Bordeaux, Detroit, Mérignac, Hanoi… and other cases to be identified as so many nuggets that enlighten us about the world’s capacity for reinvention.

Through a kind of mirror-image, analogous situations inform us about the phenomena at work, by means of their deviation from the norms and standardisations of the world. How do they live together, and which spatial contracts do they imply? The lessons drawn from these different case studies should help us to develop a critical point of view on the ways in which we live together.

Christophe Hutin, curator

Maison et jardin naturel nourricier ; Beutre, France – 2019 © Marion Howa

— Travel Diary

by Christophe Hutin

Les habitants au service de leurs habitats
L'appropriation des espaces publics en lieux communs
Transformation des logements collectifs : la performance des habitants à l'œuvre

— Travel Diary

by Christophe Hutin

Les habitants au service de leurs habitats
L'appropriation des espaces publics en lieux communs
Transformation des logements collectifs : la performance des habitants à l'œuvre

— The Exhibition


The 17th International Architecture Exhibition, titled How will we live together?, is curated by Hashim Sarkis and organized by La Biennale di Venezia. The exhibition will be open to the public from Saturday 22nd May to Sunday 21st November 2021 at the Giardini and Arsenale venues.

the French pavilion

Operator of the French presence abroad in major international events, the Institut Français implements the French Pavilion of La Biennale di Venezia in close coordination with the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs. Jointly, they selected Christophe Hutin’s projet “Communauties at Work” for the 17th International Architecture Exhibition.

Christophe Hutin

Christophe Hutin set up his architecture agency in 2003 in Bordeaux. He is an architect, a researcher at the Ecole d’architecture in Toulouse, and a senior lecturer at the Ecole d’architecture in Bordeaux.

He studied and documented the townships of Soweto near Johannesburg and developed a renowned expertise about housing and habitats. As the founder and coordinator of the Eunic Studio in Johannesburg (2008-2010), he co-founded the “Learning From” workshop, editions of which have taken place in Detroit, Soweto and Uzeste. He is the author of “L’enseignement de Soweto”, published by Actes Sud in 2009.

Specialised in sustainable architecture based on the economy of construction, he has carried out a number of projects in the housing field, but also in the field of cultural facilities. Together with the architects Anne Lacaton, Jean-Phillippe Vassal and Frédéric Druot, he won the Mies van der Rohe Award 2019, for the transformation of 530 social housing apartments in the Cité du Grand Parc in Bordeaux.

Christophe Hutin is also a director of short films, a scenographer, and an exhibition curator. His photographic work was exhibited at the Recontres d’Arles in 2010.

Grand Angle Productions

Grand Angle Productions is a French audiovisual production company created in 1994. Operating in Paris and Bordeaux, it produces programmes for French and international channels. Its activities also include the production of museographic and immersive content. Grand Angle asserts is identity and vocation through its ambitious films and documentary collections, favouring a strong involvement on the topics of History, Society, Culture and Discovery. Grand Angle, which has been working with Christophe Hutin since the first reflections on the project for the Pavilion, has accompanied his unique approach with the production of “large format” films and content for the digital platform.

Pavillon français_©DR

— THE catalogue

The catalogue of the French Pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition — La Biennale di Venezia is a tool for reflecting on the different urban situations that form the backdrop of the exhibition. The book is structured around the eight international sites chosen by the exhibition curator, that bear witness to the vitality of daily community action in the effective production of contemporary architecture. 

Each site is described in detail, with reference to their historical and human contexts. Each of the case studies gives rise to an editorial montage stimulating the knowledge of the environment and the conditions of expression of the different actors who worked in the field. A close relationship is established between the images and the texts (sometimes in the form of narratives, poems or extended captions). These interventions adopt the point of view of the people living there, and are translated into English.

The book is also enriched by theoretical articles commissioned from researchers. These articles, sometimes in the form of dialogues, decentre the gaze and seek to give the narratives substance by making the lived environments tangible and placing them in a reflexive perspective. These articles listen to, share and convey the different processes of appropriation. They call into question the position of the “everyday architect” and their relationship to residents’ expertise. They offer tools for knowledge, necessary to act on what already exists. The book is illustrated with more than 250 iconographic documents.

The Authors

— Christophe Hutin is an architect and lecturer/researcher at the École nationale supérieure d’architecture in Bordeaux.

— Daniel Estevez is an architect, computer engineer and professor of “Theory and practice of architectural and urban design” at ENSA in Toulouse.

— Tiphaine Abenia is a structural engineer, architect and Doctor of architecture. She teaches construction (ENSA, Toulouse) and the project of architecture (ENSA, Toulouse and the École polytechnique fédérale in Lausanne).

— Marion Howa is an architect, political science graduate and part-time lecturer/researcher at ENSA in Toulouse.

— Éric Chauvier is a Doctor of anthropology, supervisor and professor at ENSA in Toulouse and Versailles.

The editor

As part of the Éditions La Découverte, the Éditions Dominique Carré is developing a catalogue on the topics of architecture and the city: architects’ monographs, monographs of French cities, thematic, scientific books (Les Grands ensembles, Les Lotissements), exhibition catalogues (AUA, Une architecture de l’engagement and La Modernité, promesse ou menace ? catalogue of the 2016 Venice biennale). Recently published: Lire la Ville. Manuel pour une hospitalité du service public by Chantal Deckmyn. The publishing house is also involved in the fields of photography, the visual arts and archaeology. Press contact for the Éditions La Découverte : Carole Lozano

320 pages
16,5 cm x 23,5 cm
ISBN : 978-2-37368-048-5

Date of publication : 04/03/2021
28 €


— partners & sponsors

Ministère le Culture Institut Français Christophe Hutin Architecture Grand Angle Productions Revue Far Ouest Kubik

Saint-Gobain Région Nouvelle-Aquitaine Bordeaux Métropole Ville de Bordeaux Fondation des Petits Frères des Pauvres Aquitanis


General commissioners
République Française - Institut Français
Artistic team
Christophe Hutin Architecture
Grand Angle Productions
Revue Far Ouest
Sponsors & partners
Région Nouvelle-Aquitaine
Bordeaux Métropole
Ville de Bordeaux