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Manufacturing an Architecture of Pleasure   

Julien Nolin

Royal Danish Academy Of Fine Arts,

School Of Architecture. Copenhagen, Denmark.

“Come experience the Amazon, without 'going into' the Amazon!”

In the middle of the Amazon Rainforest, lies the city of Manaus, a city of 2 million people who owes much of its survival to its Free Trade Zone, yet at what cost?

Amazonia Pier is a phantasmagorical critique of the Free Trade Zone of Manaus, proposing a speculative reinterpretation of the Zone's industrial belt into a pier of pleasure, and forming a new industrial park at the city’s central harbour, hybridizing the mechanical manufacturing processes of industry with the mechanics of amusement rides, juxtaposing themes of consumerism, manufacturing, tourism and pleasure.

Firstly Julien, if you could give us an introduction about yourself, where you have studied, what stage you are in your architectural career/degree and also any of your interests or specialities?

Born in Montreal, Quebec, I studied at Carleton University in Ottawa, then École Spéciale d'Architecture in Paris, and finally the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, where I studied Architecture and Extreme Environments. I am currently back in Montreal working for Sid Lee Architecture. 


Your project which is based in Manaus Brazil, explores Free Trade Zones and commercialisation in lower economic countries, what inspired you to explore this topic?

A little background might help to first understand why I even found myself in Manaus. As part of my Masters program, the first phase of our projects was always heavy research. That was then followed by intensive on-site experiments of sorts. We studied specific aspects of a place and explored them in great detail with great big infographics which stayed on the wall for the rest of the year. The result of this last phase was an architectural device which either measured, showcased or performed some environmental, social, political, etc. aspect with strong architectural implications. If this seems obscure, you can read about it here: 

Through my research, I became really interested in Manaus's Free Trade Zone because of the blatant dualities it harboured in the city. This city holds 2 million of Brazil's poorest people living on a literal concrete island in the middle of the Amazon, and the whole show is driven by some of the biggest conglomerates in the world. Not unlike other Free Trade Zones, it was, and still is brimming with dark contrasting realities, this one just happens to be in the centre of the world's biggest rainforest.

The Amazonia Pier creates a hybridization of industrial processing with an amusement park, why was the theme park pertinent to your concept?

The theme park came up early on in the research. The typology has a sort of implied sense of pleasure it imbues onto its users. By that, I mean that when one goes to these places, you kind of have to have fun, at least you are told to, and there's something delightfully sinister about that. This idea coupled with the clear similarities between the mechanical rides of theme parks and the repetitive machines of industrial parks, and there was quite a bit of material to work with.


Within the project, you utilise a colourful comic book style, was there a particular reason why you decided to present the project in this fashion?

That was the fun part. The style stems from a childhood of diving my face into Tintin comics by Hergé. Only this time, I could use its fun style and explore something much darker, more subversive. Again, the sort of implied pleasure of the style, where bright colors and simplified shapes are generally used, made for a fantastic way of contrasting the amusement of the theme park with the murkier corners of industry.

This graphical style combined with your use of the axonometric drawing is beautifully unique, but is there anything or anybody in particular who has influenced you graphically?

Going back to Hergé again, it was only through the process of this thesis that I realised how much of an effect his books had had on me, and this throughout all of my schooling. Another clear link to the style I used is to the work of Archigram. I was lucky enough to have Sir Peter Cook assist some of the critiques, which pushed me to dive even further into the style and the ideas of the legendary group.


I’m sure a lot of our readers will be keen to know what software you use to produce your drawings, could you give us an insight into your process?

[Laughing] I've actually gotten that one a lot in emails. I wouldn't want to make it too easy on your readers, but I'll give you a hint because I have spilled the beans to a few inquisitive students already. The entire park was modelled in 3D in Rhino, the scars of which my computer bares daily. And a lot of Make2d, for those who know. Then, hours of Illustrator.

At the Royal Danish Institute of The Arts you studied Architecture and Extreme Environments, something in which aims to respond to key global issues, could you give us your opinion on the role of architecture as a response to these prominent international issues?

That's a great question, an important one. The levels of waste of the AEC (Architecture, Engineering & Construction) community are quite scary if you look them up. We have a huge role to play in the effects the built environment has on the natural one. I don't think you can get away with saying the architects realm of influence is only aesthetic and social. 


The program of study interestingly focused on all the other realms of influence. Above all, what the Architecture and Extreme Environments program focused on is an hyper-specific approach to local issues. And by hyper-specific, I mean the small details that apparently lie outside the commonly understood realm of architecture which have great impacts on the field itself.  What the program taught me is that architecture functions at its best, when coupled with and is strengthened by other fields. It is about looking at science, technology, sociology and politics, through an architectural lens, and the resulting combinations which arise.


During your education you transitioned from Carleton University in Ottawa Canada (BArch) to the Royal Danish Institute of Arts in Copenhagen Denmark (MArch), what did you gain from studying in both North America and Europe and were there any standout differences in the architectural styles?




I could give you a lengthy answer to this one, but I see it all coming down to self-confidence and play. Architecture in Europe, more specifically in Denmark, comes out of a long history of great design, going back much further than North America's. In my opinion, this generates a world of design that is very sure of itself. They then tend to take themselves much less seriously, and integrate more play into the model, resulting in ingenious ideas.

You have entered a number of competitions and have been very successful in doing so, is this something you would advise all architecture students to undertake?


100%, do it. It's a great way to challenge yourself in new ways. And as for projects that have already been completed, the work has already been put in, throw it out into the world and see what happens.

If you could offer one piece of advice to our architecture student followers what would it be?

Do not take your time at school so seriously. Have some fun, this is no time to limit yourselves in any way. Get messy, break the rules, things will never (never!) be as perfect as you'd like them to be, so don't be afraid to make a mistakes. Make more mistakes.


Oh and please sleep, its never worth the all-nighter.


Finally, where can people find out more about you and your projects? 

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