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Preparing the land for “Aire d’attente” (all photo © Fabriques Architectures Paysages /Thierry Boutonnier)

A flourishing field of hemp grown for the first-ever architecture biennale in Lyon was torn apart by local police, who mistook the one-acre plot of green for an illegal cannabis farm. As Le Progrès first reported, the weedwhacking occurred about two weeks ago following a regular patrol. The incident prematurely shut down the exhibition, which was supposed to serve as the outdoor venue for the biennale’s closing party this past weekend.

Aire D’attente” (French for “waiting area”) was a joint effort between artist Thierry Boutonnier and architecture firm Fabriques Architectures Paysages to transform a neglected wasteland in La Confluence — France’s first fully sustainable neighborhood —  into an urban agroecosystem. Grown near the contemporary arts center La Sucrière, the revitalized field also nourished flax and barley; the resulting harvest was repurposed into eco-friendly building materials, such as blocks of hempcrete, which were on display in an indoor space nearby.

Indoor component of “Aire d’Attente”

Far from being bowled over by this green gesture, however, officers on patrol reportedly sent a photo to the police station expressing suspicion. According to the police chief, his officers had thought that the plants were hemp, but he asked them to uproot the field anyway to avoid any confusion. As Le Progrès reported, the police explained that a simple sign describing the work would have helped. Pierre Janin, a member of Fabriques Architectures Paysages, argued that the officers could have easily found one of the artists involved to seek clarification, as they often visit the site. The mistake is understandable, as hemp and cannabis look similar, but the latter has a much higher THC level.

Needless to say, “Aire D’attentedid not end on a particularly high note.

Seed bags for “Aire d’attente”

Rendering of “Aire d’attente”

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Claire Voon

Claire Voon is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Singapore, she grew up near Washington, D.C. and is now based in Chicago. Her work has also appeared in New York Magazine, VICE,...