La vie en kit (Life, Assembled)
One of the humbler branches of the architect’s profession has always been to find ways of making affordable housing that is at the same time elegant, playful and aesthetic for people just starting out in life. After May 1968, in the wake of the student disturbances across Europe, a lot of utopian thought went into the matter. Elodie Degavre, the Belgian director of ”Life, Assembled”, is an architect herself. The architect of the project,which became the subject of her film, Jean Englebert, turns out still to be alive – indeed very much so. What could be more interesting than to go and talk to him about those days? Following up on her instinct, she meets further practitioners from the time: Paul Petit, an expert in simple steel constructions; and the husband and wife pair Lucien and Simone Kroll who pioneered what came to be known as “participatory” architecture, whereby clients (quite often students) had almost as much say in the design of the buildings as the architects themselves. All of them turn out to be excellent talkers. The reminiscences of these idiosyncratic (and even, at times, anarchistic) pioneers make up the bulk of this documentary, which is enriched by lively archive footage that shows the buildings in question both in the course of their construction, and later on, closer to our own time. Despite the simplicity and cheapness of materials used, these seem, for the most part, to have stood up well to the passing of the years; they have acquired “patina” and a certain traditional beauty. Underneath it all the political optimism of their origins is somehow still visible, and we are moved by it.
Elodie Degavre is an architect, teacher, photographer, author, and director. Passionate about her profession, she has been teaching architecture projects at the Université Libre de Bruxelles since 2006 and led a research project on the theme of housing in 2018. For more than thirteen years, she worked as a practicing architect on public worksites on behalf of several Brussels offices, including V+ and a practice. Increasingly interested in the “storytelling” about architecture, she regularly collaborates with the magazine A+ Architecture in Belgium for exhibitions or articles. Wishing to redefine her practice as an architect by directing it towards a secular audience, she is now expanding her activities to film writing. With her documentary "Life, Assembled" (La vie en kit), she takes a further step towards the public.