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a field of the ordinary

LA+ EXOTIQUE 2023 Competition

Set against the forecourt of the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle in Paris, A Field of the Ordinary introduces a “field" populated with 260 trees that are native to the landscapes of France. This intentional juxtaposition aims to challenge the traditional perceptions associated with "Exoticism." At the end of the central alley, visitors will find themselves entering an assembly of trees varying in height, and a continuous flow of red concrete planks that are alike wounds on the ground. In contrast to the prevailing symmetry and grandeur of the site's geometric layout, this “field” feels too Ordinary. It would be almost unnoticeable placed anywhere else, while here, we take it as an opportunity to curate unexpected engagement for visitors, drawing them into a unique experience.

We envision visitors, from countries that once colonized and those that were colonized, guided by the flow of concrete plank, and drawn toward the heart of the field, where the planks get shorter and heavier, and the ground staunches like a pond. Here, visitors sit under the dome of tree canopies. The former empty plaza fades away, and so does the monolithic Grand Gallery of Evolution. The field becomes a sanctuary for contemplation and rest.

As the trees mature, their increasing stature gradually reshapes the field’s initial peak elevation, diminishing the dominant presence of the Grand Gallery along the central axis of the site. This subtle transformation mirrors a healing process, echoing the recovery over time from the historical damages that imperialism inflicted upon colonized individuals, communities, and cultures.

This simple field doesn't merely fill a void between the formal garden and the grand gallery; it curates a brief escape from the narrative of exoticism that is inherently Western and colonial. Amidst the field a remembrance of history emerges, fostering healing and mutual understanding, encouraging a collective reimagining of what truly constitutes the "exotic."


Collaborator: Xinyi Zhou

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