Brunet Saunier Architecture, Antoine Kersse
This study started in 2017 during the preparation of a conference where Brunet Saunier Architecture was invited to present its work and its references in the field of health.
The traditional presentation format was discarded in favor of a transversal look at five recent hospitals designed and built (or under construction) by the office in four European countries.
The confrontation of the spatial responses to a substantially identical program in the five situations highlights the capacity of the architectural models developed by Brunet Saunier Architecture to respond to cultural variations in the understanding of care, hygiene and working conditions desired by the users and, in a broader dimension, to the notion of well-being.
In spring 2018, Brunet Saunier Architecture presents its work at the Architecture Gallery in Paris in the form of a filiation of the hospital building 2. Intuitively advanced as part of this exhibition, the analogy to the study of the Evolution of living organisms quickly proved to be a fruitful tool for thinking about the complexity inherent in Healthcare (1) and its architecture.
First of all, analogy to the hierarchical classification 4, as a way of flattening out, comparing species of the same rank, here hospitals, to identify their essential characteristics, that is to say the singularities distinctive, but also the permanence. Analogy also to the importance of external circumstances on the evolution of each individual specimen, and to the determinism of form over function. And, if we continue, analogy to the role of new technologies in forecasting and controlling this development. There is therefore a possible parallel between Darwin and his disciples and hospital architecture. In any case, this is the postulate that René Zaragüeta i Bagils, professor and researcher in phylogenetics at the Sorbonne, agrees to support on the occasion of Phylum H, the work.
To assimilate hospital architecture to a living being, with all the limits of such a comparison, is also to give up perceiving it as an inert object, often bulky, heavy and embarrassing, and to endeavor to describe its autonomous functioning. . It means taking into account all the cogs and mechanisms, all the flows of information, people, and energy that make this architecture an unstable material, in perpetual transformation. But it is also to reveal the finesse, elegance and delicacy with which such a subject can be understood. A hospital must indeed be at the same time, comfortable and reassuring, efficient and sensitive, rigid and permissive, modest and striking, current and eternal. It is the machine at the service of the machine man and a social space for the use of the social man. The “machine” described by Gerold Zimmerli, consultant hospital architect, and developed by Brunet Saunier Architecture is also sometimes caulked and sometimes exposed. Abstract to the maximum, it becomes architecture, simply.
The human behind the machine is also the one who designs it, who makes it work, who powers it and who makes it most obvious to everyone. The Phylum, in biology, a taxonomic rank grouping together species of the same lineage, is in linguistics, a group of languages descended from a common ancestral language. The hospital, a demanding program with a very long execution time, indeed presupposes the construction of a common language between all its actors and users. Phylum H therefore describes a process, a language, a know-how that is both human and technological as much as an architecture. Within this process, the digital tool occupies a prominent place. Jacques Lévy Bencheton, associate architect in charge of the implementation of future technologies within Brunet Saunier Architecture, and Kean Walmsley, platform architect for Autodesk research, share the same enthusiasm for a technology which, according to them, will never replace man but which will on the contrary give it more scope. While this dream of liberating automation is not new, it is being realized a little more every day and at all scales, from design to management of the hospital building. The hospital, a place of care, is therefore also a place of innovation. With the Siltasairaala project, Marita Perälä, assistant to the HUS Helsinki contracting authority and Matti Anttila, partner architect responsible for the project in Finland, are experimenting with new systems and new forms of consultation, making it possible to reduce construction time, to control economy, to adjust the shape as much as possible to use and to anticipate certain functional changes.
The phylum described in this work is then not only that of the Hospital, as equipment or type of architecture, but the archetypal Hospital as designed by the Brunet Saunier Architecture agency during these last twenty years of design. hospitable. This phylum H is the common ancestor of the nearly one hundred hospitals designed, twenty-five of which were built, not in the first or original sense, but “utopian”, as Jérôme Brunet, founding architect of Brunet Saunier Architecture, specifies. It is the model, the optimal and deterritorialized residue, the reservoir of a collection of potentials in the sense of Guattari and Deleuze (2). Each of these hundred hospitals is therefore a particular achievement of some of these potentials, depending on the territory, the contracting authority, the team of caregivers, the technology used or the specified function. It is an expression of mutations of epigenetic origin of the basic archetype, which may be subjected through use to a selection process. It is the enrichment of the databases on which the optimization processes generated by the genetic operators of Generative Design described by Kean Walmsley are exercised.
The exhibition Phylum H, the first stone of this vast study on hospital design, was followed by a more substantiated compilation of the material accumulated by the agency in the form of the book Phylum H, Brunet Saunier Architecture on Healthcare, Ed Hatje Cantz.
Finally, Phylum H is five thematic sheets reporting these different approaches to hospital design, and five hospitals designed by Brunet Saunier Architecture between 2005 and 2015, some of which are still under construction 6. These hospitals, in Geneva, Belfort-Montbéliard, Helsinki, Zurich and Brussels, presented in plan, axonometry, and through the eyes of photographers, are five specimens of the same archetype, the minivan (3). They are the illustration of its functioning and its variation through eras, countries and project contexts.
Phylum H, Brunet Saunier Architecture on Healthcare 11 is neither a monographic work nor a demonstration of a theory but a look at the daily life of an architectural firm, with its history, its questions, its doubts , his hopes and his convictions. Via all the interviews, comments, projects and data presented, it is not Brunet Saunier Architecture the “expert” in hospital design who is exhibiting but a group of men and women who share a state of questioning about their practice, the profession of architect and the role of architecture in our society, with its challenges, its social and technological developments, and its environmental concerns. Phylum H, Brunet Saunier Architecture on Healthcare is ultimately a proposal for a crossing among the overlaps and considerations of a genealogy with multiple branches.
Preface to the book Phylum H, Brunet Saunier Architecture on Healthcare, Ed. Hatje Cantz, Berlin, 2020, by Julia Tournaire, Architect, urban planner and researcher, state graduate in architecture and graduate of the Ecole des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales.
(1) Healthcare, an English-speaking term without a literal French translation, which combines both the social and scientific notion of care, the functioning of the health system and the associated services, including hospital design.
(2) Guattari, Félix et Deleuze, Gilles (1980), Mille plateaux, Paris, Éditions de Minuit
(3) Blin, Pascale and Brunet Saunier Architecture (2012), Monospace and simplexity, Basel, Birkhäuser