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Quentin Clémence & Alice Weil | Research Trip

Madagascar | Multi-Disciplinary

December 2022 — Multi-Disciplinary

Studio ICAI

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Studio ICAI (Interdisciplinary and Caring Architecture – For the Inhabitants) was founded by Quentin Clémence and Alice Weil in 2022 with the main objective of linking practice and research in the framework of interdisciplinary projects. The two architects will undertake a research trip in Madagascar from 15 December 2022 to 1 January 2023 in preparation for a collaborative exhibition they are developing titled «From ‘house-being’ to ‘having a house’» that focuses on Zafimaniry art and architecture.

The research trip will allow the architects to undertake an investigation into the contemporary material and constructive culture of the Zafimaniry, a society in the south-east Highlands of Madagascar, in order to understand and account for the relationships that the rural Malagasy population have with the house in a context of globalization. They will be assisted by Malagasy anthropologist Irchade Zavaraly in the role of expert and interpreter. Studio ICAI share an excerpt from their project statement:

“In Zafimaniry country, the house, traditionally built entirely of wood, is a particular entity occupying a central place in the social organization; it embodies the marriage relationship and does not exist outside of it. Thus, the beginning of the construction of a house marks the social birth of each individual and continues to be both a support and an influential element in all the major phases of its inhabitants life, until it continues after their death thanks to the maintenance and carvings provided by the descendants of the original couple. The specificities of the practices associated with the house make it a remarkable technical and artistic object, which earned the Zafimaniry woodwork its inclusion in UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage in 2008. This patrimonialization as well as other transfers and exchanges linked to ancient and recent globalization are constantly changing the characteristics of the Zafimaniry house. Phenomena such as the deforestation of their environment, the import of materials or land grabbing have direct influences on the architecture and its place in society. In addition, Zafimaniry artistic productions, which are materialized by woodcuts, initially made on elements of houses — whether old or contemporary — occupy a central place in the imagination of the local population and define in part the modality of their relationship to the material world.”

The research that this trip builds on was refined and supported in the framework of a master’s degree and then a PhD (in progress) in social anthropology by Alice Weil, under the direction of Laurent Berger, an anthropologist specialised in globalization and Madagascar. The trip will allow Studio ICAI to refine the orientation of the project, which is planned to include photographs, soundscapes, audio and video testimonies and Zafimaniry art pieces. While in Madagascar, Quentin and Alice will develop photographic and sound recording documentations that will feed into the multimedia exhibition. In parallel to this, the team are working on publications that will complete and contextualise the exhibition.


Quentin Clémence is a French-Swiss architect. He worked at Graber Pulver in Zürich (2015-2017) and as a project manager at Bruther in Paris (2018-2021). He is currently pursuing a specialisation to become a heritage architect at the École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Paris-Belleville

Alice Weil is an architect by training, she was notably a research and teaching assistant at the two Swiss polytechnics, EPFL and ETHZ for the Bruther studio (2017-2021) and is preparing a PhD in social anthropology, under contract with the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences.

[All images by Studio ICAI]

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