April 20, 2015

Housing Bubble, Or La Bulle Pirate


It's 1970, you're 23, living in a studio in the suburbs of Geneva with your wife, your applications for larger apartments are thrown in the garbage because of a citywide housing crisis, and your kid's on the way. What do you do?


If you answered, "Oh, I just ask some utopian architects to build me a concrete shell bubble with a window and a skylight, which we'll hang off our window in the dead of night, and which will hang over the entrance to our building, and we'll just let the kid sleep in there," you're either delusional, Marcel Lachat, or both.


And yet here we are. Lachat's "La Bulle Pirate," aka the Pirate Bubble, was designed by concrete shell pioneers Pascal Haüsermann and Jean-Louis Chanéac, and was outfitted with the same ticky-tacky curtains and wicker bassinet you'd find in any Swiss nursery. There are shelves for toys and books, and a little closet nook with adorable sandals and outfits in it.

Julien Donada's short 2010 film includes an unusually comprehensive photo documentation of the making and installation of la Bulle Pirate. Which, a viewer only learns from a passing comment, was only up for five weeks.

When the media storm broke over his unauthorized addition, Lachat argued he wasn't the only one flouting housing and zoning regulations, just the most up front about it. Housing authorities quickly found his little family a larger apartment.

In the mid-2000s la Bulle Pirate when on public display, to remind the orderly Swiss that you can jump the line and get what you want by embarrassing bureaucrats and dangling your baby and a 600-lb cement blob over the heads of your neighbors.


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