Centre de recherche sur l'espace sonore et l'environnement urbain - UMR 1563 "Ambiances architecturales & urbaines" CNRS / Ministère de la culture / Ecole nationale supérieure d'architecture de Grenoble

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the Centre for research on sonic space & urban environment (cresson)

is a research laboratory reporting to France's Architecture and Heritage Directorate (DAPA), and located at the Graduate School of Architecture in Grenoble (ENSAG)

Cresson Director: Rachel THOMAS

In 1998, in partnership with the Architectural Methodology Study Centre (CERMA) in Nantes,
it started a mixed research unit (UMR), affiliated to
France's National Research Centre (CNRS):

UMR 1563, Architectural and urban ambiances

UMR Director: Henry TORGUE

In June 2013 Cresson had
25 researchers
16 phD thesis students
5 technical and administrative staff

 

 

 

 

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From the sound environment to atmospheres

Research carried out at the laboratory focuses on the perceptible environment, and architectural and urban atmospheres.
Cresson advocates a qualitative approach liable to help and perhaps influence design strategies and processes.
After concentrating initially on the sound space, the laboratory extended the scope of its inquiries in the 1990s to include the many dimensions of in situ sensory perception. Our research addresses phenomena related to light, heat, smell, touch and bodily movement.
Research draws on original pluridisciplinary methods, at the meeting point between human and social science, between architecture and engineering science.

 

Research topics (addressed since 1980)

• sound effects in an urban environment
• natural and artificial urban light
• perceptible construction of public space
• the role of sensory perception in social ties
• sensory factors in feelings of insecurity
• a sensory history of the urban environment
• safety and prevention on building sites
• a sensory ethnography of specific spaces (subways, ports, stations)
• imagination and intuitive action in the everyday environment
• basic applications of sound and light metrology
• sound-oriented design of housing
• methods for representing sound and light qualities
• atmospheres in architectural and urban design strategies
• pedestrian routes and accessibility in the urban space

 

UMR 1563 "Architectural and urban ambiances"

In 1998 Cresson joined mixed research unit 1563, Architectural and urban atmospheres, jointly backed by CNRS and the Ministry of Culture.
Its key missions are to:

• contribute to a theory of architectural and urban atmospheres centred on immersive simulation, an in situ approach and project assistance;
• develop interdisciplinary methods for architectural research and for integrating results in architectural practice;
• coordinate architectural and urban research in France specializing in atmospheres and develop links with similar work abroad;
• participate in research-oriented training through the affiliation of Cerma and Cresson teams to the doctoral schools for which they act as laboratories;
• develop a policy of dissemination and promotion through publications, research and applications contracts, technology transfer and continuous training designed, in particular, for professionals using information technology.

 

 
 

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Since 2009 the scientific scheme centres on three main topics:
ambiance and environment,
ambiance and project,
ambiance and society.

It marks a shift in the place and function of the notion of ambiance in the overall scientific project of the research unit (UMR). Our goal is no longer just to study architectural and urban ambiances from the inside, exploring them for their own sake (how they are experienced, how they express themselves and how an ambiance is created), but also to relate them to other fields, testing them there.

Ambiance remains the central theme in our scientific scheme, but taken in conjunction and articulated with three other terms: environment, project and society. In a sense our aim is to propose a research standpoint from which to start anew on ambiance and to work outwards from it. By proceeding in this way ambiance becomes an operational concept – while remaining a thematic concept - opening onto contemporary social problems and taking advantage of its practical, heuristic potential.


Ambiance and Environment Ambiance and Project Ambiance and Society

 

Keywords:
nature, air, water, vegetal, energy, soil, climate, ambiance, sustainable development, eco-neighbourhood, built, urban forms, topography, images, resources

• Elements and materials
calling into question the material basis for acting on ambiance.

• Representations and mediations
problematizing the link between an ambiance’s cultural and physical resources.

• Ecological developments
integrating ambiance in contemporary ecological problems.

This line of research hinges on the question of elements.
The notion of environment can be compared with that of ambiance, in so far as it belongs to the same semantic field. Much as the landscape, habitat or ambiance, environment belongs to the same conceptual family as ambiance, and accordingly opens up a perspective that is close to yet distinct from ambiance. This line of research explores the gap between the two terms, their complementary qualities and the dynamic they share. More exactly the articulation between ambiance and environment highlights and calls into question the “objectifiable” side of an ambiance by way of its physical and material properties and characteristics.

 

Coordinators :
Pascal Amphoux (Cresson)
et Marjorie Musy (Cerma)

 

Keywords:
design, construction, spatial device, references, application, prototypes, scheduling, studies, expert appraisal

• Tools and methods
developing methodological instruments and tools specifically for dealing with ambiance.

• Experiments
developing an experimental posture to bring ambiance to bear on various forms of understanding and know-how.

• Operational and pedagogical implications
learning from real-life experiments in architectural and urban design.

This line of research hinges on the question of ‘manufactures.’
The notion of project can be compared with that of ambiance, in so far as we conceive it as a field of both scientific investigation and practical intervention. The notion of project enables us to adopt a posture of involvement, thanks to which the processes of grasping and changing an ambiance are closely interconnected. The term ‘project’ above all connects to architecture and planning, but it also opens onto other fields with a social, artistic, educational or political content.

 

 

 

Coordinators :
Grégoire Chelkoff (Cresson)
et Pascal Joanne (Cerma)

 

 

 

 

Keywords:
practices, mobility, social bond, experience, aesthetics, imagination, theory, programme, typology.

• Culture(s) and sensory perception
contributing to a sensory culture of inhabited spaces.

• Movement – Mobility – Mobilizations
developing a sensory ecology of the body in motion.

• Epistemological openings
specifying the irreducible character of an approach guided by ambiance.

 

This line of research focuses on the stakes involved.
In this case society can be linked to the notion of ambiance in the sense that an ambiance always has a social, historical and social context. Whatever its nature, tonality or scale, an ambiance cannot be dissociated from a way of life that makes it possible and gives it meaning. Our aim is therefore to root our understanding of architectural and urban ambiances in contemporary ways of living and being together, in such a way as to highlight the social intercourse to which they give rise. Our concern is the place and role of ambiance in the changing face of today’s urban world and the complex processes it deploys.

 

 

Coordinators :
Rachel Thomas (Cresson)
et Nathalie Simonnot (Cerma)

 
 

BACKGROUND TO THEMATIC CONTENT

 

• 1979-1983
The sound space was the central theme of Cresson's early years. Starting from a pluridisciplinary approach integrating social practice, built-up space and acoustics the laboratory developed its basic methods and concepts, such as sound effects and acoustic proxemics.

• 1984-1990
Cresson set out to introduce the part played by cultural and social factors into its research into noise. It also addressed non-verbal person-to-person communication in homes and workplaces, and in language teaching in public spaces. This research developed a methodology for dealing with the built-up environment and led to a culture of the perceptible environment. Light-related phenomena were addressed from 1988, from the perspective of insecurity, the aesthetics of the architectural and urban landscape, and day and night-time visual experience.

• 1991-1996
The scope of Cresson's work gradually spread to encompass other senses (smell and touch). Growing interest in usage and conduct in public spaces opened the way for a comprehensive theme covering urban atmospheres. A new model of intelligibility, combining built-up forms, perceived forms and represented forms provided a way of testing new horizontal or interdisciplinary methods: commented routes, recurrent observation, comparative metrology, and multidimensional analysis for design. This period also coincided with the launch of a postgraduate (DEA) course in Architectural and Urban Atmospheres, bringing the team's various themes to a new audience and securing their dynamic and renewal.
This postgraduate course was replaced, in 2004, by a Master's degree in Architecture and sensory cultures of the environment. Building and inhabiting atmospheres.

• 1997-2009
In 1997 the start of the CNRS-affiliated mixed research unit 1563 officially linking Cerma and Cresson was a major step forward, in both institutional and scientific terms. While pursuing their specific concerns (instrumentation and characterisation at Cerma, perception and expression at Cresson), the two teams are jointly developing a structured horizontal approach to two themes:
- Atmospheres and architectural projects: interdisciplinary theory and methods
- Architectural and urban design observed from two perspectives: tools, players and doctrines at Cerma, atmospheric concerns in design at Cresson.

 

 

teaching


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Graduate School of Architecture in Grenoble (Ensag)

Cresson researchers and faculty members are involved at different levels in teaching dispensed by the school, ranging from an introduction to atmospheric considerations, to preparation for research and doctorates.

 

Bachelor's degree in Architecture

Second year

• Introduction to the project, heuristic and experimental approach
Project studio

• Introduction to atmospheres in architecture
Materials resistance and statics

Third year and Master's degree

• Mastering atmospheres: comfort in terms of sound, heat and light

 

 

 

Master's degree in Architecture

Architecture and sensory cultures of the environment.
Building and inhabiting ambiances.


The team trains graduates in architectural and urban design, basing the principles out of which the project develops on an environmentally aware approach and an understanding of the processes that create perceptible atmospheres.

Pluridisciplinary teaching draws on the meeting of knowledge concerning the emergence of architectural or urban forms, and social and sensory interaction with the space and physical dimensions involved.

The same approach applies to any design situation or scale – including individual buildings, building elements and the urban space. It opens several perspectives for thinking about and developing projects in a given space, but also for carrying out specific, original research, systematically hinging on sensory cultures of the environment.

Particular emphasis is given to three types of work :

• approaching the sensory impact of architecture, by looking at the diversity of sensory registers deployed by the body in the process of perception, and design, and more largely in any aesthetic productions;

• understanding the use of built elements by assessing their physical effectiveness, and their material and constructive coherence, in terms of economical use of resources, bearing in mind the techniques and principles for creating forms, and their evolution in different cultures and over time;

• developing the potential for use of the built-up environment by confronting it with the sensory registers characterising it in increasingly urbanised conditions.

The four-semester course consists of seminars and project workshops, leading up to a project.

Teaching modules enlarge on and use the methods and criteria for qualifying the environment provided by research and experimentation at Cresson.

The course leads up to the preparation of a project rounding off a student's architectural studies (with or without a research distinction). A research distinction may be obtained by doing specific teaching modules. It opens the way for enrolment on a doctorate course (the selection process also considering previous work) with a supervisor prepared to monitor the project in the appropriate doctoral school (Université Pierre Mendes France, Grenoble, doctoral school 454: Human, political and territorial sciences).

Links and perspectives

Teaching takes advantage of several existing elements :

• various professional partners involved in teaching sessions form a network of architects and players interested in the questions raised here and the type of project we address, in France but also abroad;

• a community of researchers affiliated to the laboratory or other nearby laboratories, and faculty members authorised to supervise research, enabling students to carry on with a doctorate in architecture,

• connections with the large workshops at Ile d’Abeau, which provide an experimental platform particularly well suited to innovative forms of teaching and research and the specific demands of our overall theme.

Coordinator : G. Chelkoff (Architect, teacher at Ensag)

 

 

Members of the Cresson laboratory also contribute to other courses in :


Institut d’Urbanisme de Grenoble

Ecole Nationale Supérieure d'Architecture de Nantes

Ecole Nationale Supérieure d'Architecture de Lyon

Ecole Nationale Supérieure d'Architecture de Toulouse

École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Paris La Villette

Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Ssiences Sociales (paris)

Université de Cergy Pontoise

Ecole Supérieure d'Art de l'Agglomération d'Annecy

Ecole d'Art / Ecole d'Architecture / Université Jean Monnet de St-Etienne

Université de Grenoble / Département de sociologie

Ecole Polytechnique de l'Université de Thessalie, Volos, Grèce. Département d'architecture

 

 

 

 

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The Cresson documentation centre keeps a record of all research reports, articles, theses and dissertations presented in the two laboratories making up the UMR.

It is also building a library (published periodicals and books) on the topics covered by the laboratory:
The sound environment
Architectural and urban atmospheres: acoustics, lighting, etc.
In situ sensory perception: light, movement, touch, smell, air and heat phenomena

It is open on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, from 9.00 to 17.00.

to any researcher or private individual interested in these topics, subject to request
(make an appointment with the archivist: francoise.acquier@grenoble.archi.fr

The catalogue may be consulted on the internet.

In addition to its work managing archives, the Cresson documentation centre:

- contributes to documentation networks: Isidora (Network of CNRS archivists and librarians in Rhône-Alpes), ADBS (Association of information and documentation professionals);

- facilitates consultation of Cresson publications, through input to specialist databases: Francis, CIDB, Urbamet, Hal-shs

- produces various outputs: regular intelligence reports, personalised bibliographies, training material

- manages loans between libraries for Cresson researchers and postgraduates