CE27 - Culture, créations, patrimoine

Aluminium, Architecture & Heritage, XX-XXIst centuries – ARCHIPAL

Submission summary

The aim of the "Aluminium, Architecture & Heritage, 20th – 21st Century" program (ARCHIPAL) is to identify the history of aluminium in architecture, to understand its heritage processes and to inventory the presence and the state of conservation of this material in the built heritage of France. It will contribute to the history of contemporary architecture and its technical innovations and to defining strategies for the conservation and restoration of this industrial heritage, in an approach marked by the values of sustainable development. It is part of a multidisciplinary approach to materials, substance and materiality. Lightweight, durable, resistant and malleable, infinitely recyclable, thanks to its technical characteristics aluminium emerged during the 20th and 21st century as material that was emblematic of modernity, . It inspired architects because it offers a range of possibilities for artistic experimentation that is particularly stimulating in terms of the variety of forms that can be achieved and of the colors and appearances - unfinished, matt, brushed or glossy - and available. This multiplicity is investigated from the point of view of the history and the sociology of technology: how did such a material, by its appearance, impose itself and how was it perceived by contemporaries? Who were the players involved in this technical change that saw wood give way to metal in architecture? How hasthe aluminium processing sector evolved, in the context of European construction, the politics of promoting “national champions”, then in that of successive economic crises and, finally, of sustainable development issues? Aluminium is a key element of the cultural and technical heritage of the 20th and 21st centuries, at the heart of very contemporary tensions related to current issues of sustainable development: its recycling to produce new products, or its conservation and adaptation to environmental requirements. The ARCHIPAL project also proposes, based on the identification of the French architectural heritage of aluminium, to collect by means of a dedicated database all the general and technical information, the details of composition and implementation, and at the same time to establish the condition of these buildings, ornaments, and sculptures in aluminium. One of the anticipated results of the project, the "Aluminium & built heritage" database is a new tool for managing aluminium heritage and will be hosted on the platform of the TGRI. Based on an assessment of the state of weathering, associated environmental and societal conditions, it will identify appropriate research, conservation and restoration strategies. By gathering technical, historical and cultural information on the heritage elements concerned, this database will provide a working tool for all stakeholders in the research field of built heritage: historians, French heritage architects, , heritage inventory researchers, restorers, etc.
Based on an assessment of the state of deterioration and associated environmental and social conditions, it will help to define strategies for research, conservation and appropriate restoration. By gathering technical, historical and cultural information on the heritage elements concerned, this database will provide a working tool for all stakeholders in the research field interested in the problem of built heritage: historians, heritage architects in France , inventory researchers, restorers, etc.
The corpus to be analyzed- databases and cartography - will orient the research in three main directions: 1. The role of architectural creation in the spread of aluminium throughout the building sector, in particular by the use of surface finishing 2. The role of technical innovations, markets and companies in the choice of materials in buildings and public works 3. The heritage of aluminium building and its challenges for the architecture of today and tomorrow.

Project coordinator

Madame Florence HACHEZ-LEROY (Centre de recherches historiques)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


AUSSER - UMR3329 Architecture Urbanisme Société : Savoir Enseignement Recherche
CRC Centre de Recherche sur la Conservation
CRM Centre Roland Mousnier
CRH - UMR8558 Centre de recherches historiques
HE-Arc CR Haute Ecole Arc Conservation-restauration

Help of the ANR 347,148 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: December 2018 - 48 Months

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