Team Representative: Chloé Valadie (FR) – architect; Associates: Gaétan Brunet (FR) - architect urbanist
C. Valadie & G. Brunet
VIDEO (by the team)
1. How did you form the team for the competition?
As a young office dedicated to architecture and urbanism, we see Europan as a facilitator to access and think upon innovative and challenging urban situations. We naturally answered as an office, constituted by two people (architect and urbanist) to face the issues addressed by Europan this year.
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 topic of the project is to question the zoning of industrial area in this small rural town. Thus we face a double yet contradictory challenge : how to enhance attractiveness in rural areas ? How to go beyond mono-functional industrial developments ? Another aspect of the project was to deal with three sites. The simultaneous study of this three sites convinced ourselves that there is no ‘model’ suitable for every situation. Like any urban development project, productive areas have to integrate and look for links with the environments in which they act.
3. How did this issue and the questions raised by the site mutation meet?
The subject of productive cities today refers directly to the capability of industrial processes and services to open more on cities. Productive spaces should offer more visible spaces, processes and networks to the rest of the urban realm. In the specific context of Pays de Dreux, with its three (very different) sites, the aim is simultaneously to contribute to the attractiveness of small rural cities and to create more porosity between industrial areas and the urban fabric. This meant for our project to develop it needed specific typologies mixing production and housing, to propose shared facilites between the different users of the cities, to create public spaces articulating different functions … This meant also proposing a general urban and landscape strategy integrating the areas designated by the brief but also the rural cities.
4. Have you treated this issue previously? What were the reference projects that inspired yours?
We already worked on close subjects or on issues that contributed to build our understanding of the site and the specific challenges of Europan. The question of suburban housing adressed in a thesis project contributed to building our first approach on the context and to considering it as clearly metropolitan. The « New alliances in the metropolis » research project dealt with the exchange of resources between buildings and the metropolitan environment in an ecological reading of the city. This understanding of the city as a place of production was quite useful in the frame of Europan. We also worked at l’AUC on operational projects allowing us to believe in the capability of cities and metropolis to engage new processes in the making of the city : the transformation of a former military base in Bretigny with a wide range of different yet complementary programs ; the Next Economy research for the city of Rotterdam in the frame of the IABR. Our references for this project are the Potteries Thinkbelt by Cedric Price because of its multi scalar approach, the Magnets project by Cedric Price because of its simple architectures offering new opportunities around public amenities. The work of Michel Desvignes and Bas Smets also influenced our project in the reading / writing approach of the landscape they develop in their projects. We were also influenced by the historical formation of the landscape in the Pays de Dreux region, known as openfield, or champagne / campagne in French : agricultural territories designed by a collaborative and shared practice of farming in the middle age. This specific invention of the territory could recover a certain contemporaneity in the hybridation of functions and uses in the city today.
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 question of time and partnership between architects/urbanists and cities is at the core of our approach to this site. Rather than proposing three independent projects, we proposed a strategy to structure possible further developments concerning the cities, the Pays de Dreux region and the companies willing to invest in the newly created economic zones. We envision our projet as a strategy or a series of tools rather than a masterplan. The drawing figuring on our panels are then to be considered as images (illustrating possible scenarios) more than a precise vision of what should be implemented on the three sites. Our method and the potentials of our proposal take the form of Ecological Magnets : economic poles that initiate relations with all the scales structuring the question of economic zones (ZAE). Extroverted objects that feed the 4 ecologies of the Pays de Dreux (environment, energy, economy, ecosystem).
The Ecological Magnets, rather than being the only beneficiaries of the opportunities offered by the new infrastructures (the planned highway), aim to trigger virtuous movements at all scales.
6. Is it the first time you have been awarded a prize at Europan? How could this help you in your professional career?
We were already runner-up for a site in Sweden (Europan 11). Our expectation changed a lot since then. At the time we were working as young architects in architectural and urban offices, and Europan seemed like an exciting occasion to practice together outside of our job. Since we created our own office and Europan represents an access to contemporary issues and large scale studies that we could extend with operational studies.
Office: UR Bureau d’architecture et d’urbanisme
Functions: Architecture, urbanism
Average age of the associates: 33 years old
Has your team, together or separately, already conceived or implemented some projects and/or won any competition? If yes, which ones?
As a young office, the team has already worked on several projects. We are engaged on a diverse range of subjects with the same commitment of always placing each situation in a wider and more complex environment. We worked on a research project called "New Alliances in the Metropolis", exhibited at the first architecture biennale of Ile de France (BAP!) ; on public space competition (Bayonne, Valdobbiadene) ; on housing and refurbishment projects (6 appartements in a former factory in Bordeaux, 2 dwelling in Montreuil) ; and a first public facility (basketball hall in Bordeaux)