« The folly, as both architectural design and figure of unreason, received its precise definition during the Enlightenment. Many eccentric builders in legend and in history have been referred to by their kind, gossipy neighbors as “inventors of follies’’; but the cultural role of the folly, was not realized until an age of reason had discovered its marvelous properties. As epitomizing a gamut of negative qualities, the folly took on the essential nature of opposite pole, of extreme undesirability, of absolute contradiction. As the emblem of foolish luxury, it offered a warning to spendthrifts and unproductive investors; as totally without function, it provided a specter of emptiness and uselessness without which function itself was meaningless; as close to madness, it described a realm and embodied a visual metaphor that decorated and domesticated an otherwise awesome concept, one that was readily incarcerated behind nonsignifying walls; as a vehicle for all sorts of fashionable literary notions, from the sublime to the picturesque, the folly exhibited them as a kind of museum of meditative objects. Thus, within a tamed space, the folly closeted such difficult and nonbourgeois ideas as horror, terror and decay. In every sense the folly represented, in pictorial or figurative form, a necessary evil. Without the folly rationalism, progress and faith in a perfectible mankind would have been empty concepts – mere fictions of good without tangible antagonists with which to tangle. »
Anthony Vidler, « History of the Folly », dans B.J. Archer (dir.),
Follies. Architecture for the Late-Twentieth-Century Landscape (1982)
Small architectural structures by which to reflect on the world, sites of experimentation in terms of styles, of arts and crafts, of various concepts and rituals, architecture pieces both erudite and vernacular, follies are organized as systems and emerge in the landscape like thoughts. Ruins, grottoes, pavilions, tents and temples are figures by which to think about architecture and its relation to the landscape. While the eclecticism of the follies in the parks and gardens of eighteenth-century aristocrats sought to stage a microcosm in a domestic sphere, it is noticeable that by the late twentieth century, follies have become a research framework in which to question once more architecture itself. Outside parks, it is now the global nature of the metropolitan environment that they consider.
The exhibition Miscellaneous Follies presents an overview of the research begun by Benjamin Lafore, Sébastien Martinez Barat and Michel Mathy in the spring of 2017 and which is scheduled to conclude in the autumn of 2018. The exhibition juxtaposes working papers bringing together architectural and landscaping archetypes, others drawn from the collection of the CIVA Foundation, as well as the literary and theoretical texts that accompany these projects.
This exhibition is accessible free of charge from Saturday 16 to Sunday 24 September on the occasion of the Heritage Days.