A partnership of French and Swiss architects has won a design competition to convert 20,450 square feet of land by the Seine outside Paris into a public park and “leisure destination,” complete with a visitor’s center, a restaurant, and–putting the leisure in leisure destination–a necklace of about a dozen garden follies.
Follies, you’ll recall, were elaborate fake buildings (Egyptian pyramids! Greek ruins! Chinese temples!) that served no purpose whatsoever except to amuse rich people, particularly in 18th-century Europe. They’re monuments to the silliest instincts of the old aristocracy and would seem to have little place in a garden–let alone a public park–today.
So why on earth does AWP-HHF want to bring them back?
For starters, AWP-HHF’s follies at Parc des Bords de Seine will actually do something. Some will be used as outlooks, others as newsstands, and still others for park storage. According to Wikipedia, that disqualifies them from the label “folly” (“Follies often look like real, usable buildings, but never are”). But hey, if the architects want to call them follies, we won’t stop them.
Secondly, AWP-HHF’s follies don’t resemble follies in any conventional sense. They’re modular wooden shacks, some painted, some not, and they owe more to the look of a fishing hut than to the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The benefit of a modular system is that AWP-HHF can alter the size, angle, and arrangement of the timber frames throughout the park to accommodate a range of functions and create unusual constructions (note the floating hut up top) without racking up the clients’ bill. Follies that are useful and cost-conscious? What a nice way to make the old world new again.
[Images courtesy of AWP and HHF; hat tip to Designboom]