Since more than 20 years ago, Renaud Person has imagined and designed universes for video games by French Ubisoft. He works now for Ubisoft Annecy, where he continues to develop the landscape design of STEEP – an extreme sports video game which takes place in an Alpine world. The last special issue AA Projects dedicated to the Festival of cabins, published in April 2020, gave him a carte blanche, so that he could imagine his ideal cabin, and draw it.
This cabin design competition might look small and fun, but it is actually a presence to engage in the subtle art of ‘space design’. This practice particularly appeals to me because, after all, it is what I do, albeit with slight differences, as a designer of virtual worlds. After years spent ‘giving shapes to sensations’, I can’t help but wonder: what would my cabin look like? And being given carte blanche! For a designer, it’s the exact opposite of a blank page: it’s an opportunity! A blank page means starting from scratch — something that never works in design. Because the answer is already there and all it takes to find it is a need and a designer. Any project comes with its share of specifications, context, history and, sometimes, ethical requirements. These are all liberating constraints, clues that inform our designs.
Now, from what I’ve seen, this architectural contest, though recently established, is earning a growing and well-deserved following. Because it is a form of ‘serious entertainment’, full of youthful energy. And because it comes with constraints, which reflect the high standards that are expected of candidates. What’s more, it provides an authentic setting that combines the raw beauty of the mountains with the lush appeal of a forest clearing. I have seen these treasures of ingenuity and creativity, which possess unexpectedly powerful minimalism. They tell us of the (still) possible dialogue between Man and Nature. The subtlety of the exercise, though temporary an unusual, necessarily encourages personal reflection. But the most decisive factor is this show of geometric poetry that resonates with the child in all of us.
After years working in space design, virtual though they may be, I realized that we design from our beliefs, our culture and sometimes our passions. And for those who, like me, work in teams, it makes it all the more intense. Our job is giving form to video game worlds. And it is an endeavor that has much in common with architecture. We build homes and palaces, whole cities, rich and colorful worlds. And to do that, we are constantly drawing (vocabulary, iconography, history) from a variety of fields (botanics, architecture, urbanism and more recently geomorphology). Some games even forced us to travel in time. My experience has left me with a love of near believable dreams and slightly enhanced reality.
My idea is to bring these two worlds together, mine and the competition’s: my cabin would be a celebration of childhood, the perfect hideout for friends in the know. It would look airy, but would also be sturdy and reliable. It would be primitive, even archaic in its design, and would fit perfectly into its context, with no harm to the surrounding environment. It would be difficult to access, possibly secret, to protect its occupants. A refuge to revel in solitude, to dream and to look at the stars.
The AA PROJECTS special issue “The Festival of cabins, contextual architecture” is now available on our e-shop.