Modu Magazine: A Tale of Urban China

ADAN: “When Forms Speak” Exhibition + Renaissance of Asile Flottant

Among the different actions led by the ADAN around the world to promote Japanese architectural design, two in France are emblematic: the exhibition Quand la Forme Parle, nouveaux courants architecturaux au Japon / When Forms Speak: Post-Bubble Japanese Architects 1995-2020 hosted from May 13 to July 18, 2020 at the Japan Cultural Institute in Paris (The Japan Foundation) and now being shown at Frac Centre val de Loire until March 7, 2021 ; the beginning of rehabilitation works of the Asile Flottant (Floating Refuge), iconic barge designed in 1929 by Le Corbusier — which sank during the flood of the Seine 2018 — with the aim of opening it to the public in 2022. 

When Forms Speak

After being held at the Japan Cultural Institute in Paris (The Japan Foundation) last year, When Forms Speak is exhibited at Frac centre-Val de Loire until March 7, 2021. 

Several generations of Japanese architects have been directly influenced by Le Corbusier’s modernism. Some of them, such as Toyo Ito, Tadao Ando and Kengo Kuma (born in the 1940s–50s) are well known to the French public. The exhibition at the Frac Centre-Val de Loire highlights those architects who began their careers after the bursting of the Japanese speculative asset-price bubble in the 1990s, as well as younger, emerging architects. It attempts to define the expression of contemporary Japanese architectural form by presenting 35 architectural agencies whose projects harmoniously combine quality of usages and experimentation with creative forms. 

Asile Flottant – Le Corbusier

Built in 1919 by the Office National de la Navigation to transport coal, the barge “Liège” was transferred to the Salvation Army in 1929 with thanks to the initiative and financial aid of two women, Madeleine Zillhardt and Countess Singer de Polignac. The latter proposed the renovation project to Le Corbusier.

The “Asile Flottant” was born. The barge was also known as the “Louise-Catherine”. It became a floating institution providing temporary shelter (approximately 120 beds + 1 canteen) for the homeless. Le Corbusier created an interior space and a raised level in accordance with his ongoing experimentation in modern architecture by adding piloti, horizontal ribbon windows, and a flat roof terrace with greenery.

Kunio Maekawa, the first Japanese architect to become one of the disciples of Le Corbusier, was working at the time in the atelier at 35 Rue de Sèvres, and participated in the refurbishment.
Currently anchored on the Left Bank of the Seine River, on the Quai d’Austerlitz, a kilometer upstream from Notre-Dame Cathedral, the floating refuge closed its doors in 1994 due to safety reasons. The Salvation Army divested itself of the facility in 2006. On 9 December 2008, a decision of the Ministry of Culture turned the barge into a listed property with the Monuments Historiques.

In 2008, a Franco-Japanese partnership undertook to save Le Corbusier’s barge, and the renovation project of Shuhei Endo (Vice-president of ADAN and project director) was chosen under the framework of the Festival d’Automne à Paris. The Japanese company ALLOY also donated two steel footbridges to be installed in spring 2020.

After almost 100 years and periods of deterioration followed by repairs, an initial renovation was carried out in 2017, with the financial support and under the scientific and technical control of the Direction régionale des affaires culturelles d’Île-de-France (DRAC d’ÎDF). In February 2018, the Asile Flottant sank during the flooding of the Seine.

The ADAN initiated a series of intercultural exchanges, which made it possible to raise the public and private funds sufficient to finance the refloating and restoration of the barge. In April 2019, the SAS Louise-Catherine Company (owner of the barge), officially entrusted ADAN with the task of refloating and renovating both the interior and exterior of the barge. The two parties have agreed to operate the Asile Flottant as a facility exclusively dedicated to cultural events.

In October 2020, the refloating of the Asile Flottant could take place, using water extraction pumps, as this timelapse shows.

Thus, the project will be carried out with the special support of: Association Louise Catherine, Société SAS Louise Catherine, The Regional Department for Cultural Affairs of Île-de-France (DRAC d’ÎDF) – the French Ministry of Culture, HAROPA – Ports de Paris, The Salvation Army, Fondation Le Corbusier; with the support of the International House of Japan, and sponsored by Architects Studio Japan Inc., Alloy Corporation, Asahi Building-Wall Co. Ltd., Endo Shuhei Architect Institute, FoneN Co., Ltd., Beniya, TRA・K Co., Ltd., Alconix Corporation; under the high patronage of the Embassy of Japan in France; and with the partnerships of the FRAC Centre-Val de Loire, the École spéciale d’architecture ESA and the Société Français des Architectes – SFA.



When Forms Speak: Post-Bubble Japonese Architects (1995-2020) / Renaissance of Asile Flottant of Le Corbusier in Paris


May 13, 2020 to March 7, 2021

Venue of "When forms Speak" Exhibition:

Frac Centre-Val de Loire (France)

Curator of "When forms Speak" Exhibition:

Taro Igarashi, architecture historian and professor at Tohoku University


“When Forms Speak” exhibition is made possible by the supporters and sponsors for the Asile Flottant project, as well as the Fondation Franco-Japonaise Sasakawa


The Architectural Design Association of Nippon (ADAN) was founded in 2014.  “ADAN aims to contribute to the public interest through improving the overall quality of architectural design, by providing a medium of interaction and study for those involved in the profession, as well as in research and education. We seek to nurture a future generation of architects equipped with outstanding intellectual flexibility and ethical values. We contrive to bring about openness to the field by cooperating with other genres, and together exploring the potential of architectural endeavor. Gaining and sharing knowledge through travel and international communication is an important part of our philosophy, in the pursuit of proclaiming architecture as a culture to be appreciated and enjoyed more widely.” Kiyoshi Sey Takeyama, Chairman of ADAN

  • 2020/05/13 - 2021/03/07

  • Frac Centre-Val de Loire

  • ADAN