Atlas of Natural Regions – Atlas of French Architecture

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Vast architectural atlas of invisible maps France

The Atlas of Natural Regions by Eric Tabuchi and Nelly Monnier – a website and a book – celebrates the building’s variety in French architecture

Eric Tabuchi and Nelly Monnier’s Atlas of Natural Regions celebrates one year online. The massive project is a unique architectural atlas; an epic feat of photographic categorization that aims to chronicle all vernacular forms of French architecture, construction and landscape. The series of photographs of contemporary architecture is organized according to the 13 regions of the country, then according to the much looser and historical divisions of the departments and arrondissements, making a total of around 450 neighborhoods in total.

Tabuchi and Monnier started their project in 2017 and intend to take 50 photographs in each of these neighborhoods, for a total of 22,500 images after ten years of work. The ultimate goal is to provide an overview of the diversity of buildings and landscapes in France in the early years of the 21st century.

Atlas of Natural Regions: an atlas of French architecture

Plemuer-Bodou. Photography: courtesy of Eric Tabuchi and Nelly Monnier, from the Atlas des Régions Naturelles

The project is tracked efficiently and intriguingly on the duo’s website. Visitors are presented with a subdivided map of the country and a list of categories, ranging from era to building material, and covering an entire part of the built environment, from places of worship to cinemas, from signage to wasteland, from ponds to bankruptcies. Click on a few categories, refresh the search and your screen fills with a rich tapestry of architecture, from the mundane to the famous, from the sloppy to the familiar. In addition to searching by location and theme, you can also sift through shape, color, and series.

Damerey. Photography: courtesy of Eric Tabuchi and Nelly Monnier, from the Atlas des Régions Naturelles

The site launched with 12,000 photographs, shaped by the details exhibited in Frédéric Ziegerman’s two-volume book, The Guide of the Countries of France (1999). The project is accompanied by a book, the first volume of the atlas in physical form. Although it contains a fraction of the tens of thousands of photographs from the project, The Atlas of Natural Regions Vol. 1The 384 pages of are the best place to appreciate the clarity of Tabuchi and Monnier’s photographic approach. The framing, the tones and the lighting give a disturbing homogeneity to the structures scattered over the 632,734 square kilometers of France; you can also purchase prints from the website.

Denguin. Photography: courtesy of Eric Tabuchi and Nelly Monnier, from the Atlas des Régions Naturelles

There are obvious parallels to industrial archeology undertaken by famous German photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher, certainly in the way typologies are collected and framed in a way that simultaneously emphasizes similarities and differences. Perhaps this architectural guide goes further, using the website’s sorting power to allow viewers to create their own catalogs and make their own connections as they virtually travel through the Gallic hinterland. §

Dolois. Photography: courtesy of Eric Tabuchi and Nelly Monnier, from the Atlas des Régions Naturelles

Flaine. Photography: courtesy of Eric Tabuchi and Nelly Monnier, from the Atlas des Régions Naturelles

Les Bondons. Photography: courtesy of Eric Tabuchi and Nelly Monnier, from the Atlas des Régions Naturelles


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