Cycles, Sol, Air

Metz (FR) - Runner up


Team Representative: Antoine Allorent (FR) – urbanist; Associates: Fanny Chenu (FR) – architect
Contributor: Guillaume Nicolas (FR) – engineer-architect

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A. Allorent, F. Chenu & G. Nicolas (© N. Abadie)


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

The choice to work on the reconversion of the “BA 128” Air Base in Metz gathered us around our mutual interests – redeveloping a military site, transforming a monumental landscape or working on the evolution of the outer fringes of the city.
As we started our research and site analysis, several interviews were quite helpful, a.o. with farmers, market gardeners, an urban planner and programmer, former service-men from the “BA128” and Metz inhabitants.

2. How do you define the main issue of your project, and how did you answer on this session main topic: Adaptability through Self-Organization, Sharing and/or Project (Process)?

The main topic was to absorb an emblematic site, huge yet rather unknown to the locals, in a large-scale urban process that should transform the military heritage of Metz.
Starting from the project requirements (to develop agriculture, engineering, sports and leisure activities on the base) and a thorough analysis of the surroundings, we came to define the stakes as follows: how to involve each part of the program in a balanced, inclusive process that would bring mutual benefit to all, as much as it would integrate the existing activities and neighbourhoods.
Adaptability is inherent to such a process – self-organization, sharing and participatory projects are part of the scheme as well, and yet to be virtuous they will have to be part of a bottom-up process (instead of the usual top-down approach).


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

The “BA128” site has a huge potential considering the new urban dynamics it should boost. We specifically noticed:

- a large quantity of various buildings meant to be renovated, which often present a simple, opened structure, and therefore lots of possibilities for new uses;
-the emblematic landscape, steeped in history, giving a strong and definite identity to the place;
- huge fields offered for all kinds of activities to come (farming as well as leisure and sports facilities), as well as also likely to host urban experimentation.


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

We had skills in urban reconversion, building renovation and participatory projects, although we had never worked on a site of such a scale. This project was also a first opportunity to approach urban agriculture in outlying suburbs.
Concerning possible references, we found several local and recent experiments that were quite stimulating, such as:

-An experimental farming project in Mirecourt, which brings together research agronomists, farmers and farm technicians;
- A “Digital Farm Project” involving students in mechanical engineering and agricultural engineering from all over the world at the engineering school of Metz;
- Building-wise, the local “Smart, sustainable building” program, which supports innovative projects connecting researchers, contractors, craftsmen and consultants.

Besides, two sites with similarities to the “BA128” were inspiring, in different ways: the recent re-opening of Tempelhof in Berlin (in particular the concern of locals to keep the site un-built as an urban park); and more unexpectedly the historical temple of Teotihuacán (which is very close to the “BA128” in terms of scale and orientation, and therefore reminded us of the “monumental” aspect of the site’s landscape).


5. Today –at the era of economic crisis and sustainability– the urban-architectural project should reconsider its production method in time; how did you integrate this issue in your project?

The project was the result of several scenarios we tested on the possible uses for all the buildings and plots that are part of the “BA128”, each use being questioned through the perspective of its temporality. In the same time, we had to ask ourselves what kind of financial structuring and public could be involved in all these rising projects, which were often intertwined.
We found it relevant to organize our ideas on a time-scale presentation, making a distinction between:

- “Priorities”, i.e. the first actions necessary to open the site and help the locals appropriate the area;
- “Long-lasting elements”, i.e. program elements and landscape evolution that will define the site’s new identity through time;
- “Temporary uses”, i.e. all sorts of one-off or recurrent events that will possibly take place on the “BA128”.

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

This prize is the first we get from a “Europan” competition. The credit and visibility it gives to our work are both encouraging and motivating.
We are now looking forward to taking our ideas one step further on the site, together with the involved organizations in Metz that seem enthusiastic and willing to give us the chance to experiment parts of our ideas.