In front of a full house at Hastings Hall, French architect Francois Roche delivered a Monday night talk entitled “The Risks of Hiring Me.”
While the title of the School of Architecture talk suggested it would focus on architects’ job prospects in the current economic climate, Roche’s comments instead delved into the intersection of nature and technology, as well as the conceptions of art and artifice he incorporates into his work.
Roche, who began the lecture by declaring that he would speak in “Frenglish,” supplemented his talk with animated renderings of his whimsical, organic designs. In one instance, Roche focused on an image of a penguin with a harness attached to it, meant to represent the power gained from harnessing nature.
Roche, co-founder of the architecture firm R&Sie with Stephanie Lavaux, said that three of the most significant aspects of architectural thinking are “unachievement, uncertainty and work in progress.” His creations are constantly evolving, responding to external factors and changing as he and his colleagues generate new ideas, he said. Also central to Roche’s work is his idea of having a personal, intimate connection with architectural creations.
“When I work, it is as if I desire something, and something appears through my desire. Your personal reaction to the space is also of the utmost importance,” Roche said.
Citing the concepts of hybrid species, robotic forms and creatures attached to mechanical apparatuses, Roche emphasized the tension between artifice and nature that is central to his work and stressed that one of the main purposes of his work is to make this conflict visible.
Known as one of the most provocative, forward-thinking forces in French architecture, Roche has taught architecture in France and the United States, at schools such as the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University.
Several audience members asked probing questions and even presented controversial commentary after Roche concluded his comments. One audience member called Roche “crazy” and proceeded to ask the architect to elaborate on how his focus on nature and technology might relate to the green revolution sweeping through modern architecture.
Ariane Harrison, a critic at the School of Architecture, said she was particularly interested in Roche’s focus on bringing environmental awareness to the field.
“One of Roche’s most fascinating points was his conception of the ‘post-human.’ The hybrid species he so skillfully, architecturally creates ascribes an eco-consciousness to the field that is quite rare. The notions of human engagement with technology, and the sometimes toxic nature of this engagement, are points I took away from his talk today,” she said.
The talk was organized as the 28th annual Paul Rudolph Lecture series, which was begun in celebration of renowned architect and professor Paul Rudolph, who served as the Chair of the Architecture Department from 1958 to 1965.