Today associated with the Comue Université Paris-Est, the School of Architecture of the City & Territories is a national higher school of architecture (Ensa) under the Ministry of Culture. It was structured 20 years ago around a pioneering educational project which considers architecture as the mastery of environmental transformations and constructed situations, at the interface of town planning, landscape and architecture.
Our school sprang from an entire team’s determination to develop a new pedagogy flowing from our definition of the words “architect” and “architecture”. Throughout the course of study, the student architects learn that conceiving of a building equally implies the development of a project that transforms the environment.
Thus, the discovery of the act of building is always tightly linked to the understanding of regions and their customs. In order to transmit this sense of architecture to our students, we have designed a novel program with correspondingly adapted pedagogical means so that our future graduates have the skills, openness and commitment required of this profession today. Architecture remains the art of building structures in a perpetually changing environment.
Designed by Bernard Tschumi, the school’s building is offers a space that encourages both concentration and exchanges. Between the two wings, which on one side hold the administration and, on the other side, design studios and classrooms, a centralspace links to a large forum where all sorts of pedagogical events or transmissions occur: exhibit spaces, a modular amphitheater, circulation and the convivial cafeteria space. The school has a capacity for 650 students keeping the institution at a human scale.
The school’s location in the heart of metropolitan Paris allows students to work within a privileged perimeter of observation on all contemporary urban issues to peak their daily awareness of a world in constant evolution, and helps deepen a contemporary view on what it means to practice architecture today.
Our school considers the very perimeter of objects as architecture, beyond just buildings.
Since its inception in 1998, the school defines itself as “an architecture school, in the broadest sense of the term, that will welcome a synthesis of urban design, architecture, landscape architecture, road design, terrain management and, of course, networks” 1.
This “synthesis”, encouraged following a period of industry and disciplinary isolation which had rigidified in the 20th century, eventually returned to the definition of architecture established by Alberti which had prevailed until the 18th century.
To state it clearly, we believe that the objects dealt with by landscape architects, engineers or geometricians should, once again, fall under the architect’s domain.
Thus, we believe that grading, plot division, water management, road and path design, etc. must also be taught in a school of architecture for cities and regions.
Likewise, we affirm that construction is a field which contributes to the definition of architecture itself. There are great architectural achievements where the construction and utilization of certain techniques gives the singular architectural expression.
From a technical point of view, we think that architects should be aware of orders of magnitude in terms of dimensioning, main systems of construction and master the rudiments of ordinary construction. All students should, one day, be able to communicate clearly with an engineer and have the ability to suggest solutions.
Cities & Regions
Today the world’s population lives mainly in cities. Urban space is developing relentlessly leading to both new solutions and to new contradictions.
Studying the city means studying it from all angles: production, consumption, memory, division and blending, urban form, political space…
Our school is interested in everything which makes up the city itself as well as its sprawl. We believe that it is time to stop seeing the city as an ideal model for regions, so as to open to an inversion of relations which can characterize the metropolitan condition.
In the metropolitan state, indeed, the peripheries have taken on an existence of their own with an intensity and dimension such that they have become autonomous from city centers : a concentric infinity of ever-expanding ring roads, so uncomfortable for architects because through their huge spillover, their diluted energy, and their uncertain hierarchy, they seem to dissolve architectural objects.
How can architecture today survive the metropolitan condition, the sprawling city, the isolation of suburbs, and contribute to giving them meaning? The Region no longer represents a geographical boundary: it is also the product of the political, social, cultural or legal powers that define them. Whatever its nature, from a residential lot to a freeway exchange, it is within the scope of action for future architects.
By encouraging our students to embrace regional intelligence, we better prepare them to respond to the complexity of contemporary challenges.
One of the advantages of the school is that it belongs to the Descartes Campus Cluster, center of excellence chosen in the Greater Paris project for its metropolitan vocation dedicated to a sustainable city.
The resulting ties with different institutes of higher learning (École des Ponts ParisTech [ParisTech School of Bridges], École d’urbanisme de Paris [Paris Urban Design School], Université Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée [Paris-East University of Marne-la Vallée]…)—which all belong to the Community of Universities and establishments of Paris-East University – allow for expansion and for confronting fields of knowledge in both teaching as well as research, involving the school in an exceptional intellectual and scientific dynamic.
In addition, studying within a boundary of privileged observation, that of a new city, itself in full mutation with all its urban, environmental and contemporary issues is propitious for awakening the students’ daily awareness of a constantly evolving world while encouraging reflection on current events--the very focus of architectural practice today.
The school has been a partner in the I-SITE FUTURE excellence initiative since February 2017. This institutional and scientific project, lead by the Comue [Community of Universities and Establishments] Paris-East University, includes the following partners: l’Université Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée (UPEM) [Paris-East University of Marne-la-Vallée] , l’École supérieure d’ingénieurs en électronique et électrotechnique de Paris (ESIEE Paris) [Paris’s Higher School for Higher Studies in Electronics and Electrical Engineering], l’École des ingénieurs de la Ville de Paris (EIVP) [The City of Paris School of Engineers], l’École nationale supérieure d’architecture de Paris-Est (Éav&t) [The National School for Higher Studies in Architecture, Paris-East], l’École nationale des sciences géographiques (ENSG) [The National School of Geographical Sciences], l’École des Ponts ParisTech (ENPC) [The ParisTech School of Bridges] and l’Ifsttar [The French Institute of Science and Technology for Transport, Development and Networks].
The scientific project focuses on the cities of tomorrow following three axes :
.The city: sure and resilient
.The city: reduced waste of resources
.The city: digital serving the citizen
The school is gearing up to join Eiffel University which will be created January 1rst, 2020 as a conglomerate establishment.
Documents to download
In the framework of reworking its visual identity in 2015, the École d’architecture de la ville & des territoires Paris-East gave the photographer Myr Muratet the task of creating a photo document in the school and on the campus. All the images in this publication were taken between May and July 2015.