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Competition: PRIMA International

An international student contest is being held for a series of five new architectural installations at the Carrières du Boulonnais quarry in northern France (Deadline: 28 February)

The PRIMA competition, organised by Paris-based Atelier 37.2 on behalf of French minerals company Groupe CB, invites students to propose a permanent ‘micro-architectural work’ for the enormous industrial site which is located around 15km south of Calais. Concepts must harness raw materials such as stone, concrete, steel, and recycled concrete.

The call for proposals is open to all architecture schools in France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Each school may submit a maximum of five student projects and five overall winners will be constructed in 2020.

Contest site: Carrières du Boulonnais quarry in northern France

Contest site: Carrières du Boulonnais quarry in northern France

Contest site: Carrières du Boulonnais quarry in northern France

According to the brief: ‘PRIMA is launching a competition – open to certain colleges of architecture and design across Europe – to create a park that will bring together the raw materials of the French quarrying company Groupe CB, and the [inspirational ideas] of future generations of architects and designers, under the creative guidance of Atelier 37.2.

‘The park will be built around the theme of micro-architecture using only stone, concrete and/or steel. Participating students will be invited to think about architecture as a minimal sculptural space, about sculpture as a space to be occupied and about function as artistic or transcendent experience. With this competition, PRIMA is proposing a new art model that will bring together in a single educational project, raw materials, creativity and construction.’

Located on the fringes of Ferques, the 500 hectare Carrières du Boulonnais quarry was created in the late nineteenth century and is now the largest single open-pit quarry in the country – producing around six million tonnes of limestone aggregates every year.

The PRIMA project aims to forge new links between emerging design talents and the aggregates industry through an ‘unprecedented art model built on the merging of clear artistic goals with an entrepreneurial strategy’. It is organised by Atelier 37.2, an emerging Paris-based practice which has constructed a variety of unique architectural installations in culturally-significant landscapes across Europe.

Contest site: Carrières du Boulonnais quarry in northern France

Contest site: Carrières du Boulonnais quarry in northern France

Contest site: Carrières du Boulonnais quarry in northern France

Participants must harness raw materials in their proposal and consider how their structure can be occupied as a form of ‘micro-architecture’ while also responding to important environmental issues raised by the ‘Anthropocene’ in which human activity has fundamentally changed life on earth.

The competition is planned to be held every year over a five-year period resulting in around 20-to-25 permanent installations being created on the site. Winning students, to be announced in March, will receive technical assistance from Atelier 37.2 and be invited to attend a residency on site in May or June to deliver their schemes.

How to apply

Deadline

The deadline for applications is 28 February.

Contact details

View the competition website for more information

Q&A with Nicolas Guiraud and Francesca Bonesio

The Atelier 37.2 co-founders discuss their ambitions for the competition

Nicolas Guiraud and Francesca Bonesio

Nicolas Guiraud and Francesca Bonesio

Nicolas Guiraud and Francesca Bonesio

Why are your holding a contest for a new park in France using only stone, concrete and steel?

The PRIMA Prize offers participating students the chance to combine, just as many leading architects and sculptors do, the raw materials of a piece with its artistic intention, from the first sketches through to construction, thereby investing in those raw materials a real value in and of themselves.

The Groupe CB gravel pits and quarries today provide the raw materials for such industries as steel, chalk, sugar, glass and animal feed. Such raw materials tend to disappear when they are used in architecture in particular. Whether through the use of stone – in the form of gravel or rock – cement, or steel, participants are invited to address this ‘disappearance’ through projects that highlight the texture, plasticity and beauty of the raw materials themselves.

Contest site: Carrières du Boulonnais quarry in northern France

Contest site: Carrières du Boulonnais quarry in northern France

Contest site: Carrières du Boulonnais quarry in northern France

What is your vision for the new park?

The micro-architectural park sits on the edge of the biggest quarry of France, measuring around 500-hectares in the north of the country. The competition’s constraints are both technical and creative.

In terms of size, all works must respect the following size restrictions:

- Maximum ground space: 16m²

- Maximum height: 4m

- The combined footprint and height should not exceed a maximum volume of 40m³

In terms of materials, all works must be built using at least one or more of the following raw materials: stone, concrete, steel, and recycled concrete. In terms of durability, all works must be permanent.

In addition to these technical constrains, the future park will be designed according to these three creative principles:

- Micro-architecture as a work of art on the frontiers of architecture and design: a work on the scale of a human body. The projects created by participating students must include the possibility of a physical occupation of space. Architecture itself must be considered in terms of sculpture that can be occupied and its function as an artistic or spiritual experience that sets up a dialogue between the piece itself and the spectator-occupant.

- The use of Raw Material as described already.

- Anthropocene: The quarry is architecture’s footprint on nature, a city hollowed out, a kind of negative space or ‘cast’ of all human construction. A town is erected as its nearby quarry is emptied and the landscape that is hewn in the process of extracting stone is, perhaps more than any other, one of the Anthropocene. It forms the basis for PRIMA’s invitation to students to reflect on the place of humanity in the world and on the redefinition of the boundaries between art and nature.

Contest site: Carrières du Boulonnais quarry in northern France

Contest site: Carrières du Boulonnais quarry in northern France

Contest site: Carrières du Boulonnais quarry in northern France

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

The PRIMA Prize is only open to students enrolled in any design and architecture school situated in one of the following countries: France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Invited schools may submit a maximum of five projects and participation is free. All laureates will have the chance of seeing a piece of architecture realised with their name on it, as part of a permanent collection – within the scope of their studies.

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

The idea is to re-launch the process each year, so as to build up, over a 5-year period, a unique and valuable body of work comprising 20 to 25 unique pieces. The contest will remain the same, though we might had some more inspirational principles over the years in addition to the three creatives themes of Micro-Architecture, Raw Materials, and Anthropocene.