OulipO is born from the meeting of the architects Anne Carcelen and Vinciane Albrecht. Anne was a partner at François Leclercq Architects in Paris, where Vinciane was a project manager. In 2014, Vinciane moved to New York City where she collaborated with Guerin Glass Architects while Anne opened her own studio in Paris. That same year Anne and Vinciane launched OulipO, a think tank for sustainable architecture.
OulipO, ouvroir de lieux potentiels (workshop for potential places), refers to the French group of literature OuLiPo, ouvroir de littérature potentielle, with which it shares the founding principle: "constraint is ground for inspiration". In the constraints inherent to each project lies the opportunity to reveal the potential of the place. We founded the think tank OulipO to open the way towards this act of transformation.
Our backgrounds were complementary and ideal to achieve this act of transformation. Anne had always explored the possibilities of the building frame and Vinciane, supported by Claude Parent, had developed the concept of homo-logical ground. Frame and ground are the two faces of the same architectural element, the fundamental element of human settlement which both protects us and supports our movements.
We have soon specialized in mass timber frames and envelopes. The Nelson Mandela education complex in Nantes, the URSSAF headquarters in Paris, the France-Uruguay boarding school in Avon, were inspired by this exploration. Then the will to respect further the carbon budget led us to search how to make the most of the existing constructions. The restructuration and retrofitting of three high schools, Molière, France-Uruguay and Hector Berlioz, are the fruits of this research.
We have explored how timber exceptional strength-to-weight ratio, minimizing foundation loads, allows light extensions within the existing building fabric. Because the future no longer lies in demolishing and rebuilding, as existing buildings offer the priceless advantage of having already amortized their carbon footprint. Because the future lies in restructuring and retrofitting existing structures through targeted interventions, we will carefully build the interstices, build within, above, in between... We will "inter-build" thanks to the lightness of timber.
We merged these researches to write and draw a manifesto: Renewable City. As population increases and resources decrease, we witness the limits of this impossible equation. We need to succeed a transformation towards a viable equation: decreasing GHG emissions while increasing social connections. More than half of the population is concentrated in urban areas. Thus, if a solution exists, it is nested within the city. We explore the ways to stop scattering the energy and to condense the energy into human links. With this manifesto, we aim to pave a way towards a sunny future.
Pleased to have served the timber construction in France and delighted to see that a similar enthusiasm for this material had widely spread in Europe, we thought that this very expertise should radiate further. In 2022, OulipO bridged the ocean to become a transatlantic architecture studio. OulipO NYC was born.