©Gloria Photo


Architects on a field trip

In the centre of La Puisaye, a Natural Region of France straddling the Orléanais, Nivernais and Burgundy regions, Campus MaNa is entering its second year of operation. Co-founded by French designer Thomas Dariel and his partner Sophie Dariel, Campus MaNa is an international training centre dedicated to craft, design, architecture and the arts in general. Set on a 37-hectare estate, the campus offers the isolation and disconnection conducive to free creativity. Visit featured in issue No 459 of L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui.

The story begins in 2018, with the announcement of the forthcoming closure of the École Nationale Vétérinaire application centre in Champignelles. The French government launched a call for bidders to sell the site. Thanks to the support of local elected representatives, the backing of investors, a judicious agricultural partnership to obtain the agreement of the Safer (Sociétés d’aménagement foncier et d’établissement rural) and, above all, the promise of an innovative concept, Thomas and Sophie Dariel’s proposal was selected. Work to reconfigure and develop the building complex began in 2020, and the campus was inaugurated on April 7th, 2023.

©Gloria Photo

Its many buildings include: the “Manaïstes” house – the name given to the students – a 19th-century bourgeois building completely renovated and decorated by Thomas Dariel, with a dozen bedrooms and various communal areas; three fully-equipped workshops – a 400 sq.m wood workshop, a 200 sq.m metal workshop and a 400 sq.m ceramics workshop, as well as a 1,000 sq.m amphitheatre dedicated to theory and other lectures.

Now that we’ve set the scene, let’s get down to the programme. Campus MaNa offers certified training courses for creative professionals and enlightened amateurs, taught by renowned architects, designers, craftsmen and theoreticians. Over the course of a week, the students, who are accommodated on a full-board basis, discover new skills, experiment with cross-disciplinary approaches, reconnect with working with their hands and draw inspiration from their encounters on site. “Campus MaNa is also a cultural ‘auberge espagnole’, where everyone comes to share the fruits of their own experience and leaves enriched by that of others,” explains Raphaël Cuir, General Director of the campus. For each of the courses, particular attention has been paid to striking the right balance between theory and practice. In a world where artificial intelligence is overturning and transmuting the practice of architecture, Campus MaNa invites people of the arts to reconnect with the intelligence of the hand, for a salutary breath of fresh air.

by Guillaume Ackel


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