Luc Lévesque terrain vague

In addition to the usual terms like “vacant lot” or “no-man’s land”, the use of the French expression terrain vague (Chateaubriand, 1811) seems to be increasing in the international community.

Could this be because the terrain vague, beyond negativity or casual descriptions, evokes more than any other lexical assemblage the paradoxical condition of space and territoriality in contemporary culture? Between nomadism and sedentarity, the terrain vague keeps the question and its potentialities open – concrete virtualities. While the term vague links to flux, indetermination and void, terrain refers rather to the idea of the border and of ground that can be occupied. Can we preserve this unusual coexistence without reducing it to one term or the other ? This is the stake suggested by the figure of terrain vague: to open the territory without dissolving its constructive qualities.

Rather than the normative vacuity associated with hygienist planification, the terrain vague speaks about porosity. Its void constitutes the counter image of the functionalist city, the Achilles heel of its prophylactic and ostentatious phantasms. The pore is both cavity and passage, a place propitious to the development of processes that escape control and contaminate representation by transversal infiltrations. As an indeterminate zone, the terrain vague destabilises the clarity of the urban figure and resists the “spectacular”. In a world more and more mediated and virtualised, it offers the possibility to tame and to experience the raw reality of a new type of impure Wilderness.

Luc Lévesque

Luc Lévesque is an architect and artist, professor in History and Theory of Architecture at Université Laval, his recent body of research traces the potentialities of an interstitial approach to urban landscape. In 2000, he is the co-founders of the urban exploration workshop SYN- with whom he has produced different works of urban pioneering and micro-interventions. Member of the editorial committee of Inter actual art magazine, he has also collaborated in architecture with various firms in North America and Europa. Luc est architecte et artiste, professeur en histoire et théorie de l’architecture au ‎département d’histoire de l'Université Laval. Ses recherches récentes portent sur les ‎potentialités d’une approche interstitielle du paysage urbain. En 2000, il participe à la création de l’atelier d’exploration urbaine SYN- où il réalise diverses recherches et interventions. Membre du comité de rédaction de la revue d’art actuel Inter, il a aussi collaboré comme architecte avec différents bureaux en Amérique et en Europe.

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