E15 Results
Dec 2019
Boîtes à Secrets Port-Jérôme-sur-Seine (FR) - Winner

TEAM DATA

Team Representative: Clément Bertin (FR) – architect; Associates: Sara Impera (IT), Martin Kermel (FR)– architects

CARACALLA ARCHITECTES
65 rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, 75010 Paris, France
+33 670392275 - contact@caracallaarchitectes.com – caracalla-architectes.com

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 M. Kermel, S. Impera & C. Bertin


VIDEO (by the team)


INTERVIEW

1. How did you form the team for the competition?

Clément, Martin and Sara met in Paris. Sara joined Caracalla, an architecture office founded by Clément and Martin in 2016, to participate in the Europan15 competition and to collaborate in other shared projects. We all have different backgrounds and experience, from independent architectural practice to theoretical research and teaching, as well as various artistic collaborations between France and Italy; therefore, the team is characterized by a flexible and multidisciplinary approach to urban and architectural projects on a large span of scales.

2. How do you define the main issue of your project, and how did you answer on this session main topic: the place of productive activities within the city?

The main objective of the competition is the global redefinition of territorial and urban relationships throughout the agglomeration of Port-Jérôme-sur-Seine and the river Seine, and between the village of Notre-Dame-de-Gravenchon and the Exxon Mobile site, in the perspective of a time-based transformation of the petrochemical site. In the context of a reconversion of this heavy industry site, a global rebalancing between the different forms of productivity of the territory is the mainstay of the revitalisation strategy for the agglomeration of Port-Jérôme-sur-Seine. The wetlands along the banks of the Seine were largely destroyed in the last century for the benefit of intensive agricultural and industrial activities, causing the disappearance of an extraordinary biodiversity. The project aims to intensify the link industry-city-nature, thus recreating a humid productive environment encompassing Port Jérôme and the Seine. The vegetal material, beyond the cliché of sustainable green, is here employed for its productive capacity, and as an architectural matter used to define spaces. Along the avenue of President Kennedy, which becomes a multi-functional axis characterized by different types of mobility, a large lagoon area, nourished by a grid of water channels, will re-introduce biodiversity, designing new geographical and natural habitats. The local production of raw products will support a progressive ecological transition while diversifying the local crafts, allowing in turn the resurfacing of old knowledges and techniques, as well as the settlement of innovative and stable working populations.

View of the public terraces

Ecological mutation of Exxon Mobile site

The new heart of the city

 

3. How did this issue and the questions raised by the site mutation meet?

The progressive territorial transformations emerging in the wake of the Exxon mobile site conversion, will be linked to the construction of new urban developments hosting housing programs and public facilities. The project proposal relies on the activation of urban dynamics involving a series of actions with limited new permanent ground occupations. The first action re-shapes the existing traffic network to design a new entrance to the city in the form of an extended intermediate public space; it reorganizes the exchanges between the existing fabric, the new urban development, the Exxon mobile site during its transition into a new productive eco-system, in and over a large territory. A district of micro-centralities is organized via a network of built mixed-use plots and open spaces, freely located in a large area of re-naturalization but emerging from the footprint of the existing buildings. The principle of micro-centralities fits into the existing fragmented context following a case-by-case adaptation and refusing the superposition of a rigid and pre-constructed design. The new densification thus maximizes the opportunities of the site, identifying fertile and strategic places. Every block is the result of the hybridation between compact and high volumes: this allows the coexistence of different programs and the definition of a multi-level urban landscape. The overall vision of the project is focused on the massive introduction of plants in the form of a productive urban forest as a vector of diffused spatial qualities, but also as an environmental and economical productive capital. This large green area has been designed as a low-definition landscape that requires very little handling; it evolves the rhythms of nature and can be freely appropriated by the inhabitants for different uses.

Fragmented built context in project area

The industrial site

Existing trees along the D81

 

4. Have you treated this issue previously? What were the reference projects that inspired yours?

Most of the times heavy industry areas are characterized by strong isolation. We already have been confronted to the subject of contemporary adaptation and reconversion of old large scale industrial sites, to new forms of production able to integrate them in the urban context and in local circular economies. We are convinced that these processes need long temporalities and soft strategies. One of them can be re-naturalisation and restitution of soils to something close to their original condition. The artistic installation of Agnes Denes in Manhattan (A Confrontation: Battery Park Landfill, 1982) shows the redemption of a polluted piece of land into a field of wheat. De Bol, an early project by OMA (Rotterdam, 1985) has been useful to understand the concepts of scale conformity, formal unity and architectural presence in order to establish new hierarchic relationships among fragmented and fractured contexts. The housing complex in Schwarzpark by Miller & Maranta (Basel, 2001-04) simply inspired us for its spatial qualities obtained in the ground contact between built spaces and a naturalized soil.

Housing complex  © Ruedi Walti

Wheatfield © Agnes Denes

OMA, De Bol © OMA

 

5. Urban-architectural projects like the ones in Europan can only be implemented together with the actors through a negotiated process and in time. How did you consider this issue in your project?

The whole project is conceived as a time-based process of transformation, to be developed according to reality and its necessities, and not to a static, abstract and predefined chronological schedule. We started to work with simple generic tools based on optimized formal and spatial concepts, as well on flexible innovative building typologies, that have been after adapted to the specificities of this context: this will allow a large degree of adaptative modifications through a continuous dialog between the involved actors, stake-holders and the local communities.

6. Is it the first time you have been awarded a prize at Europan? How could this help you in your professional career?

This is the first time we receive an Europan prize. We see it as a unique opportunity, paving the way for potential future collaborations, but also as a good way to turn into reality an urban and architectural concept. We think that thanks to Europan we will gain more visibility in the local and international architectural community.

 

TEAM IDENTITY

Office: SAS d’architecture - CARACALLA ARCHITECTES
Functions: Architecture, urban planning and territorial analysis
Average age of the associates: 34 years old

Has your team, together or separately, already conceived or implemented some projects and/or won any competition? If yes, which ones?

The team has strong experience in urban and architectural competitions, as well as in executive architectural projects, developed practicing as project managers for the architectural firm Hardel et Le Bihan Architectes (Clément Bertin et Sara Impera). Individually all the team members participated in public and private architectural competitions in France and Italy, winning various prizes. Clément Bertin is winner of the 1st FAIRE edition of Pavillon de l’Arsenal with the project “L’arbre de pluie”, an urban installation realized as prototype in 2018 in the Square Schwartzenberg, in Paris and is currently implementing a pavilion called “The Human Den” for the British gallery Kielder Castle, in North England. Sara Impera has been winner of research grants to develop urban studies in collaboration with public institutions in Italy, and has been selected to publish research articles in various european architectural magazines (Trans magazine, ETH Zurich) as well as some book excerpts. Caracalla at the moment has different ongoing projects of single houses, housing interiors and new public buildings; we attend competitions in France and Swiss and we develop continuously research activities in the field of architectural theory, urban and territorial studies.

 

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