The Brussels-based firm MangerNielsenArchitects (MNA) is one of the ten craft architecture firms that caviar.archi has decided to portray in film. Johan Nielsen tells us all about his interest in architecture in front of Mister Emma’s camera. He describes his day-to-day work and practices. Quality architecture, architecture in good taste, but what does creating architecture ultimately mean?

Johan Nielsen
MangerNielsenArchitects (MNA)

www.mangernielsenarchitects.eu
mna@mangernielsenarchitects.eu

Technical sheet of this architecture video clip
Journalist : Emma C. Dessouroux
Cameraman : Emanuel Pinto / EpiProd – Mister Emma

Editing : Emma C. Dessouroux / Cristina Dias
Direction : Emma C. Dessouroux
Production : Les Délires Productions

Translation : Strakermedia
Rereading : Serge Ryckoort / Emelire
Subtitles : Strakermedia

French Subtitles

1
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Je suis Johan Nielsen, je suis architecte.

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Je suis associé avec Ingrid Manger,

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et ensemble, on dirige le bureau
Manger Nielsen Architects à Bruxelles.

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En 2008, on travaillait
dans le même bureau.

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On travaillait chez Christine Conix
à Bruxelles ensemble,

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qui à l’époque était un bureau
assez formidable, très dynamique.

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Et puis, on a eu en fait l’idée ensemble,

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l’envie de faire des concours
d’architecture principalement.

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Ingrid est Allemande,
elle travaillait pas mal à Paris.

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Donc, elle a toute une sorte de background
assez, on va dire, international,

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un parcours international en tout cas.

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Moi, je revenais de Barcelone
où j’ai travaillé quelques années…

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au tournant des années 2000,
donc juste après être diplômé,

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et ensemble,
on a voulu faire des concours.

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  • Bonjour.
  • Bonjour.

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  • Voilà.
  • Oui.

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Aujourd’hui, on construit
dans le domaine du public,

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je dirais, de manière générale.

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C’est-à-dire que le mécanisme du bureau,
c’est resté les concours, pas mal.

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On n’a pas d’a priori
en termes de programme,

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puisqu’on construit, par exemple,
pour l’instant, un centre culturel,

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un petit complexe sportif à Schaerbeek,

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des logements sociaux,

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à Molenbeek, une crèche aussi.

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Donc, on n’a pas d’exclusive
en termes de programme.

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Ce qui nous intéresse, c’est…

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là où on peut faire de l’architecture,
là où il y a du débat, de l’enjeu,

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on va dire,
et il se trouve qu’aujourd’hui,

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c’est quand même pas mal
dans le domaine du public.

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Comment est-ce que je décrirais
notre architecture ?

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Je dirais que c’est une architecture…

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qui est assez simple,

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qui porte sa propre force,

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à travers une idée en coupe.

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C’est peut-être une idée de façade,
mais il y aura peut-être…

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une ou deux idées qui vont se dérouler,

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si tu veux,
dans tous les aspects du projet,

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et à tous les moments du projet…

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et qui, à mon avis, va…

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se confronter un petit peu au contexte.

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  • Mais…
  • Il est occupé à préparer la porte…

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J’ai eu envie de devenir architecte…

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C’est une question…

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C’est une question très personnelle.

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En fait, j’ai eu envie
de devenir architecte

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quand j’ai vu des chantiers
dans lesquels des immenses camions

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arrivaient pour amener du matériel.

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Et il y avait, je trouvais, là-dedans…

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un côté évident, un côté simple,
un côté un peu brutal aussi,

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dans le fait de mettre
tout d’un coup les choses en œuvre

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qui m’a fasciné.

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Les études d’architecture
sont assez complexes

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dans le sens où c’est…

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c’est vraiment des études
où on t’apprend à déconstruire ton savoir,

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ce qui est assez intéressant,
mais ce qui est…

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je trouve, assez flippant
pour les étudiants.

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C’est-à-dire que grosso modo,

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si les études sont un peu bien faites,

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elles consistent beaucoup à démonter
le côté un peu académique

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qui sont les réflexes académiques
qu’on a eus pas mal

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dans les études secondaires, etc.

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Je pense qu’une bonne éducation
en architecture,

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c’est de déconstruire d’abord
ces réflexes-là.

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Même avec ce temps-là.

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Oui, c’est lumineux.

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Et puis, par contre,
la rencontre avec la pratique

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est, je trouve, assez…

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assez fascinante parce que…

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de nouveau, en tout cas pour ma part,

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on est confronté enfin au construire.

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L’architecture, pour moi, c’est…

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Là, tu me laisses un petit peu de temps
pour rassembler mes idées.

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Pour moi, l’architecture, c’est un…

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c’est un investissement collectif
dans les formes,

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je dirais, de manière un peu théorique,

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mais pour moi, c’est ça, l’architecture.

English Subtitles

1
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I’m Johan Nielsen, I’m an architect.

2
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I am the partner of Ingrid Manger,

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and together we run the firm
Manger Nielsen Architects in Brussels.

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In 2008 we worked at the same firm.

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We worked together at Christine Conix
in Brussels,

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which at the time was quite
a tremendous, dynamic firm.

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Then we had the idea together,

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the desire to do
architecture competitions, mainly.

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Ingrid is German
and she works a lot in Paris.

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So she has a very, let’s say,
international background.

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An international career, in any case.

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I’d come back from Barcelona
where I worked for some years…

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around the year 2000,
so a little after getting my diploma,

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and we wanted to do competitions together.

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-Hello.
-Hello.

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-There.
-Yes.

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Nowadays, we generally build
in the public sector, I’d say.

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The way the firm works
is still through competitions.

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There is no « normal »
in terms of programming,

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since, for example, now we’re building
a cultural center,

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a little sports complex in Schaerbeek,
social housing

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in Molenbeek, and a kindergarten.

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So there’s nothing exclusive
about our program.

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What interests us, is…

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wherever we can do architecture,

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where there’s a debate,
something at stake, let’s say,

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and it happens that these days,

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that’s mostly in the public sector.

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How would I describe our architecture?

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I’d say the architecture is quite…

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simple, with its own strength,

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through a joint idea.

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It might be one main idea,
but there could be…

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one or two ideas that develop,

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if you will,
in all aspects of the project

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and at all times during the project…

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and which, in my opinion, will…

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challenge the context just a little.

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-But…
-He’s busy preparing the door…

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I wanted to become an architect…

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It’s a question…

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It’s a very personal question.

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Actually, I wanted to become an architect

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when I saw building sites
with huge trucks

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bringing in the materials.

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And in that, I found…

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an obvious side, a simple side,
and a somewhat brutal side too,

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in the way that all gets
suddenly put together,

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which fascinated me.

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Architectural studies are quite complex

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in the sense that it’s…

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They’re studies that teach you
to deconstruct knowledge,

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which is pretty interesting,
but which is…

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I think pretty mind-blowing
for the students.

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I mean, overall,
if the course is pretty good,

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it will try to dismantle
the slightly academic aspect,

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those academic reflexes
which we had a lot of

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in high school, etc.

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I think a good education in architecture

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must first deconstruct those reflexes.

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Even in this weather?

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Yes, it’s bright.

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Then, however, coming face-to-face
with the practical side

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is, I think,
quite fascinating because…

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again, in my case anyway,

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we are confronted with building.

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Architecture, for me, is…

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Give me a moment to gather my thoughts.

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For me, architecture is…

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is a collective investment in shapes,

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I’d say, to put it theoretically,

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but for me, that’s what architecture is.