THE IMAGINISTS OF OH LA LA LAND, PART 2: MARIN + TROTTIN AND EDWIN CHAN

by flaunt

We commissioned leading architects to imagine the Paris/L.A. fusion city of Oh La La Land.

MARIN + TROTTIN

Emmanuelle Marin and David Trottin form the French firm Peripheriques Architectes. In 2015 they won first prize Duo @ Work 2015 for the Cultural Space of La Hague, and in 1995 their “House M” won first prize in the Euro-Belgian Architectural Awards.

Written by Marin + Trottin

We chose to approach the subject by confronting our project Paris par Nous Paris pour Nous with Los Angeles. We imagine our project repositioned into the L.A. urban landscape. This imaginary journey throughout the time and space is fed by an experimental simulation referencing L.A.’s emblematic places.

Our building results in mixing typologies, lifestyles, and ways of inhabiting, and draws its references from the history of Parisian architecture. This village-building belongs to past and present—it becomes an iconic element, capable of reuse in pastiche illustrations.

We have designed five visuals as postcards from Oh La La Land. We considered that Oh La La Land doesn’t belong to the time, and that its reflection will be richer if considered through different periods. These illustrations refer to ‘30s travel posters. Our imaginary castle building appears like a pastiche of Château Marmont in a phantasmagoric universe. We didn’t forget the ocean, and we also imagined a luxury building overlooking the beach boulevard. Next we took the reference of fashion since Paris and Los Angeles are two ambassadors of glamour.

This work opened our reflection on the temporality of architecture and the ability of a building to exist in several epochs without anachronisms, but also the ability of it to switch context and make sense of different meaning. By mixing these two principles we created a new universe.

EDWIN CHAN

A former Design Partner at Gehry Partners, L.A.- based Chan worked on the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, and the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris. He launched his own practice EC3 in 2012. Amongst other accolades, Chan has been recognized with a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from France. 

Written by Edwin Chan and Jordan Squires

In 1925, legendary architect Le Corbusier unveiled the Plan Voisin for Paris. The controversial plan proposed to replace the dense Quarters on the Right Bank of Paris by iconic cruciform towers situated in an open, garden-like setting. As expected, the Plan Voisin was met with strong resistance and skepticism from the citizens of the city. Who wants to see beloved Quarters like the Marais demolished, only to be replaced by towering behemoths? Had Le Corbusier been able to realize his vision, there would be no Centre Pompidou or the Picasso Museum today! Plan Voisin remained a utopian dream, unrealized in the City of Light.

In 2015, 90 years after the debut of Plan Voisin, an anonymous Cahier surfaced at a Christie’s Auction in Paris in November. This Cahier, referred to as “Auction Lot 323,” contains five drawings that seem to describe an urban proposal, labeled as Plan Oh-La-LA. The first impression of these drawings—two plans and three perspective views—evokes some form of mixed-media collage on top of freehand sketches reminiscent of Le Corbusier’s style. But more peculiar about Plan Oh-la-LA is its resemblance to the “negative impression” of the Plan Voisin—a dense urban fabric grafted onto a cityscape of a larger urban grid. How is it related to Le Corbusier’s original proposal?

Initial examination of this so-called Plan Oh-la-LA has identified the dense urban fabric to be the same Quarters on the Right Bank that had been surgically removed from the Plan Voisin. Is that a coincidence or by design?

The other drawings describe a structure comprised of a cluster of three towers of different heights, situated on a triangular site in the center of the dense urban fabric. Comparison of this structure to Le Corbusier’s famous manifesto Five Points Towards a New Architecture yields the following speculations:

  The plan of these towers resembles the geometry of three “leafs”, spreading outward towards the corners of the triangular site. Has the free plan (Le Plan Libre) taken on an organic form?

•  This structure appears to be floating above the surface, which slopes up gently to provide a delicate balance for the towers. Instead of an entry vestibule, the slopes split open discreetly to invite access to the interior. What happened with the structural columns (Les Pilotis) favored by the Five Points?

  Rather than being constructed by raw concrete (Le Bêton-Armé)—Le Corbusier’s material of choice, this triangular structure has the appearance of glass—a literal transparency. The free-façade (La Façade Libre) and the horizontal window (La Fenêtre en longueur) have been transformed into a vertical “glass curtain” (La Façade Vitrée). Could this be the logical next step in the evolution of the Five Points?

  Finally, in lieu of the roof gardens (Les Toits-Jardins), the three towers embrace a landscaped terrace in the middle. What seems to be a digital projection of floral bouquets ascends its vertical walls in a continuous loop. Is this a digital-garden for the new millennium?

 What exactly is the function of this structure? Housing? Office? Recreation? Culture? It is not immediately evident. But In the new spirit (L’Esprit-Nouveau) of Universal Space championed by Modernism, does it matter?

Perhaps, the key to unlocking the mysterious origin of this “Plan Oh-La-LA” is to be found by taking a closer look at the site plan. Evidently, the large urban grid is not Parisian by nature; but instead, it is reminiscent of the scale of industrial building blocks generic to the American City. This triangular structure located at the heart of the dense urban fabric is clearly intended to provide a contrast to its surrounding—an ephemeral presence in
an industrial wasteland.

The most striking feature of this drawing is a red cross marking the intersection of two streets that traverse from the dense urban fabric to the surrounding cityscape. Obscured beneath the red cross, one could vaguely discern the names of these streets as Alameda + 6th Street—Are they referring to the same streets at the Arts District in Downtown Los Angeles?

Most certainly, Le Corbusier never travelled to California. However, it is conceivable that after the disappointment of Plan Voisin, the legendary architect continued to develop his urban vision with a counter-proposal, envisioned for a presumably more open society in the New World. How ironic if Le Corbusier’s progressive urban vision would find its ultimate realization almost a century later in
the City of Angels?

Furthermore, although Christie’s has attributed “Auction Lot 323” as “Anonymous,” its fine print does identify the former owner to be a certain Café Voltaire, located in the heart of the same dense Quarters on the Right Bank of Paris in Plan Oh-la-LA. How did the Cahier come into possession by the Café Voltaire? Could the “Plan Oh-la-LA” be the “Lost” next chapter for the Plan Voisin? The evidence so far is inconclusive, raising more questions than providing answers.