Working on Ecorhythms means basing urban development on a strong synergy between urban and natural environments in order to break the principle of opposition that has separated city dwellers from natural realities and gradually undermined those realities.
by Chris Younès, Philosopher, Anthropologist, Teacher, member of the Europan Scientific Committee (FR)
The notion of Urban Ecorhythms appeared only recently in architectural projects: it appears more and more in the ecological transition and in the idea that nowadays we need to invent an eco-adaptable town. The idea that we have to find ways to make city and nature coexist is extremely important and the desire of nature –in an extremely powerful urban world– follows some kind of necessity and aspiration – necessity of course because we live in a very contaminated and inequitable world, an urban world that is somehow “exhausted”. From the points of view of sociology and anthropology there is a new look at the city of the 21st century: Edgard Morin talks about a new “policy of civilisation.” And new imaginary worlds appear when we talk about urban ecorhythms, highlighting nature’s great power of transformation but also its extreme fragility. These two aspect are largely used in the projects associated city and nature.
So there is a whole ethical and æsthetic re-evaluation being set up with this idea of urban ecorhythms, with the rhythms linked to the elements –water, air, fire– but also the rhythms of vegetation, of day and night, of breath or of the heart. And every architectural project works with these two aspects of nature, wild and tame. Many forms of hybridization or ecorhythms have already emerged –way before the Europan competition– but this session highlights the major importance of the issues of landscape, of reasoned density, of preservation of the forest and agriculture, but also of water in the city as an extremely determining element; the issue of recycling also highlights the fact that urban cycles also mean recycling what we take from the environment.
Looking at the projects we can identify three particularly significant forms of nature: there is the productive nature, the nature as a structure and the reparatory –or even salvatory– nature. These three forms of nature are very powerful project materials revealing extremely stimulating innovations.
We are here treating with agriculture as the matrix of the urban renewal, a sort of urbano-rural concept. For example the site in Fosses (FR) , in the heart of a rural village, is an urban fringe on the edge of natural and agricultural land. With their project "L’amateur… rend possible l’imprévisible", the winning team increases the village density to protect the agricultural landscape and employs scenarios to connect the actors. The idea –already there in the previous sessions– is the stabilise the boundary between town and farmland so that it does not stand anymore as just an implicit land reserve for urban growth but also as a way to (re-)make the city differently. A whole immaterial dimension is stressed in this project in order to stop the momentum of material consumption. At the same site, the runner-up team with “Crossing-over” chooses to create a rurban landscape of small-scale bio-intensive market gardening; the aim is to use limited financial and material resources to keep the land productive and alive. The idea is therefore to work with the living material, sparing it and working with its cycles, and considering interweaving of space and time scales. They tried to “understand to what extent the study of big territorial structures at large scales and over long timeframes can help establish the project’s fundamental principles at site scale.” It is interesting to see that working with productive nature means working with nature’s length –which is very long– not to exhaust the fields, but also with shorter time lengths to work on the field as it is.
This productive nature is to be found in Höganäs (SE) too, where the site is characterised by the fertility of its lands. The winning team here, “Twinphenomena” establishes a dialogue between urban and rural, careful to protect this precious resource. Here, the idea of working with productive nature also gives limitations to the project to make it compatible with the lands’ fertility. The runner-up project on the same site, “Urbedible” explicitly situates itself in relation to the insertion of new urban rhythms correlated with food production. In Kaufbeuren (DE) special mention “Air Sharing” combines agricultural production with energy generation.
We clearly see that what is at stake in this productive nature is precisely the lands, the climates, the alternation of things, but also the question of appropriate energies and economies to human life. Today, the issue of the project that can feed city inhabitants is an architectural issue; it is not only addressed to agronomists and getting interested in the nourishing values of this productive nature is therefore a major turn: we try to adapt the agricultural structures to the city, but also to adapt the city to the agricultural structures.
NATURE AS STRUCTURE
In a certain way, Europan has been quite pioneering in associating architecture and landscape, and landscapers are actually nowadays largely present in the winning teams. The idea of Nature as structure is an extremely powerful facet when it comes to long-term territorial metamorphoses, because the focus here is set on the landscape: its topography, rivers, fields, forests and banks… All this data becomes material for the project, even for non-landscape architects. What is sought is overall coherences based on resistances and resources provided by the geographical environment; I take this expression of “resistances and resources of the environment” from Frédéric Bonnet, who has just been awarded the Grand Prix d’Urbanisme in France and is a former Europan winner who always developed this relationship –and even friendship– with the landscape and the evolution principles of a site. So we here follow the evolutions of a site: it is not fixed but budding, and we will have to detect these budding powers.
At Bærum (NO) the municipality wants to integrate the river more closely into the urban fabric while protecting ecosystems. The winning project “Social Riverscape” opts for a sophisticated conceptual proposal with the capacity to introduce time and to envisage the harmonisation of successive layers of change, thereby combating uses inherited from a modern urbanism based on dissociation of functions and uses. The runner-up project “Elasti-City” develops another facet of nature as structure: it devises a spinal column linking the town to the fjord while providing for protection against natural flood risks and tackling water in its dual character of resource and threat. Talking about Ecorhythms definitely deals with the question of natural threats and how architecture is trying to tame nature not to be destroyed by it.
In Paris Saclay (FR) both winning projects –“Lieu(x) de négociation(s)” and “Reversing the Grid”– although quite different, are both developed on the geographical potential of the site, which bears the heavy marks of its geography of plateaus, hills, valleys and contours, and of the nature of the grounds and its hydrography; the aim is to link the different rhythms but also to measure their differences and the potential synergies.
This notion –which is very present in Michel Serres’s philosophy– seems very new to me. The idea is that we could avoid an imminent catastrophe relying on the regenerative capacity of nature. To enter into resonance with such a regenerative and resourcing nature is to activate the resilience potential of a milieu, it is looking for new possibilities of urbanity and habitability; it is measuring cycles with their double face of destruction and regeneration –new possibilities can rise because a flower wilts and then disappears. These cycles are of course the cycles of the time of things.
At Kaufbeuren (DE) the runner-up project “Long-Lasting Landing Landscaping” seeks to achieve renaturing by creating vast reserve areas, while the winning project “Fasten your seatbelt” restores value to natural spaces and the connections between landscape, territory and architecture in order to remake the city. This idea of remaking the city on other basis makes the cardo decumanus disappear: Ecorhythms now become the cardo decumanus of the city-territories.
The city of Vichy (FR) seeks to build the economy of the future at the heart of a woodland park taking advantage of the reconversion of a large industrial site; the municipality counts on nature to resource an industrial site that destroyed life. The winning project “Franges pionnières” reaches this goal with very close analyses of the territory and its reality and all these projects on Ecorhythms in fact require such analyses with the will to combine the development of activities to regeneration, whether from the perspective of energy generation or waste recycling. This question of waste recycling is of course extremely important in the notion of Ecorhythms and the winning project highlights the integration of periods of latency in a flexible phasing so that regeneration is made possible. Runner-up project “Archipel de clairières” emphasises forms of decontamination combined with the production of a regenerated landscape, the idea of decontaminating with and thanks to nature. Finally, the special mention project “Arboripôle5”, while criticising an often excessively limited concept of eco-neighbourhoods, stresses the importance of the long-term in the encounter with natural and human rhythms for a responsible reappropriation.
With the work on Ecorhythms we are inventing a new architectural and urban world. It drives back to the cycles of life, human beings and its sensory and æsthetic experiences. A whole new poetics is appearing, it is not only about engineering; it concerns architecture and it answers the important exhibitions now in preparation everywhere on the era of the anthropocene. Scientists are debating on the issue and if we seriously consider the capacity to have natural and human rhythms work together, to transform milieus, grounds and climates, we can pretend we are in the era of the anthropocene, with the milieu linked to nature and technique. This is the position of Bruno Latour and Isabelle Stengers, who worked with Ilya Prigogine on “The New Alliance” in Physics of man and nature.
Implementation Processes From Previous Sessions
SAVENAY (FR), EUROPAN 11
Savenay is located in the West of France, in the Loire estuary, at the transition between two major cities, Nantes and Saint-Nazaire. The town stands on a hill on the geological line of Brittany, which is a topographic break giving birth to the valley of the Loire River. This is where the Europan site is located, around the station terminal. The different partners backing the project are of two kinds: local partners, which are the town of Savenay and the Communauté de Loire et Sillon –the association of the municipalities around Savenay; and metropolitan actors, which are the Pôle métropolitain (an association of municipalities at the scale of the estuary) and the SAMOA, the public developer for the city of Nantes. The project was therefore backed on two scales between local and conurbation. To briefly describe the site you have Savenay on one hand, with a view on the valley of the Loire, the hills and a large breakthrough to the horizon; and on the other hand you have the site of the station district with the railway tracks that create a physical separation between the plateau, the town and the valley, and also a business zone that does not function anymore, with a water treatment plant and companies striving to survive. So it is a sort of interface between two worlds that do not talk to each other on the border between the business zone and the floodplain. We decided for Europan to propose a masterplan on this part of the project, based on these two dimensions that are very local characteristics of the activity zone and at the same time the issues of the Europan project actors –creating a metropolitan dimension; at the same time we were proposing to work with specific tools that we called Mesures ligériennes (or measures from the Loire): these are measures taken at each scale, from the district to the estuary, and that are as many themes that seem important to us to debate with the actors to then be able to implement the project.
The application site for us was what we called "Inhabited Islands". Living on the plain is not the same as living on the hill; the issue of floods is constant on the plain and you have to find a way for the city to live with this environment; and we consider that the best way to do so is with these Islands that are actually hamlets, small villages on micro-topographies. Our idea was to start from this typology of the estuary and to reinterpret it to create transitions between the town of Savenay and the plain.
At the time of the competition it was still a possible assembly of the tools that would give the plan. After the competition that rewarded us as a winning team, some communication was made around the project, an exhibition was done and we presented the project to the town representatives; in 2013 the competition was opened a second time for the 3 winning teams –us and the runners-up– for a 6-year contract with the town on this area and in November 2013 we were chosen as the team for the follow-up. The contract then runs until 2020 with different missions that might include the masterplan, the feasibility of the architectural programs or the design of public spaces. We have now been working on the first stage for 6 months, thinking about a way to develop the masterplan for this district, how to go from conceptual measures that worked well for the competition to a real working method with representatives and on a real territory?
Our idea was to make all the measures at the different scales and to gather them around the 3 themes that we consider crucial for the district, 3 notebooks we called Workshops. There was the relation to water –that concerns many actors on the territory–, how the district can be integrated into a flood zone; the relation to the town, how to make the district not only a symbolic element (without taking care of the inhabitants) but also a physical link and how to go beyond the railway tracks; and finally there was also diversity, how to go from a business zone to a housing district keeping the activity alive.
We thought it was important to confront the 3 themes to the actors on the territory. So in May 2014 we travelled across the site perimeter with the representatives to be able to make a diagnosis and see what should remain or not. We realized that it was also a good way to discuss with the representatives on their intentions for the territory. Then we met the inhabitants of Savenay: the idea was to have a big map and locate their uses on the territory, see what worked and what not, and we realized that there were uses that we –and even our clients– were unaware of and that all of a sudden appeared on the map. Nowadays, we are working on a workshop, that took place last September, on the relation between the district and the flood plain. The idea is to have project managers, associations present on the territory and members of the State around the same table; for ex. there was a table on the issue of water and flood risks, with an association dealing with the swamps below the site, a farmer taking care of all the spaces of the perimeter and one member of the State in charge of the legislation on water; then there were also members of the town technical services dealing with sanitation, etc. It was interesting to have all these people discuss and see what could come out of the discussion; and we realized that many solutions appeared just through this dialog between the actors. This is where we are today and we can see that these questions begin to make our plan develop; the final version should be given by February 2015.
Alain Maugard, President Europan France (FR)
I think we have to focus on this link between the architect and the client. First of all, as Europan goes on treating the urban issue before the architectural one, the swing of the architect and the client is the following: while the client is as urban as architectural, the architect is more and more urban, nowadays as much urban as it is architectural.
I would also like to insist on the process that is automatically used in France. After the Europan competition we point out 3 teams –winner, runner-up and special mention– to the client of each site; and we ask him to hold a new consultation with the 3 teams. The truth is we have to be able to count on a strong, motivated and reinforced client –which was the case for the Grand Nantes as the client was reinforced by the SAMOA. By the way, the dialogue that was built when choosing the sites or during the juries was a dialogue that the clients that are here qualified as fruitful and enriching; there is a time when Europan helps the client progress and, I believe so, the architect as well. This process is a long-term process and it raises the level of expertise and responsibilities of the client, and therefore also the level of expertise of the teams of architects. We are now dealing with Ecorhythms; instead of imposing one type of expertise to the architects, there is some dialog ecorhythm created between the clients and the architects. And the consultation with the 3 teams allowed the client –through the dialogue with the teams– to clarify the question. The client –that I replace today– told me that the questions change a bit through the dialog with the architect; they progressed because the knowledge of one type of answer by the architects can modify the question too, make it “brighter” or more “justified” by the client. So it is very important, but it goes the other way round too: when the client clarified the questions, the architect has to give a more accurate answer because if there is a gap between the question and the answer, then the dialog is not very enriching and it might not end up with the operational work.
The third point I wanted to mention was the 6-year contract. It is an animation contract followed by different tasks: on the public spaces, it will end up with a masterplan, but some briefs will also give out operational work, etc. So this is a long-term process. Nevertheless, defining a framework contract in advance and in detail contradicts the very idea of Ecorhythm: you sometimes need to accelerate or have a break and give yourself a bit of time; if we want to push this logic to its end, then we need adaptable framework contracts. We cannot work on a project that says: “The city is adaptable and we will work with the ecosystem” (or with social trends), and not plan this project to be adaptable at some time. So if we want to work on the long term we could see the framework contract as a sort of wedding contract with loyalty between the client and the architect, but without everything being planned in advance.
SAMBREVILLE (BE), EUROPAN 11
Edouard Libotte, DGO de l'Aménagement du Territoire de Namur (BE)
Sambreville is a municipality without a clear dominating entity; the site is located in the main town of Auvelais, it is a wasteland separated from Sambreville by an important river, the Sambre, and limited on the North by a railway track. Sambreville has approx. 30,000 inhabitants and lies in between two important towns –Namur and Charleroi. The issue here –just like for most of the towns along the Sambre River– is the reconstruction of a post-industrial town that needs to rethink its future because we have to admit that at the moment we are still trying to sort things out. Another major issue is to erase what had been planned and does not correspond to the current expectations anymore. It is quite a long process, especially because there are problems with land properties. Finally, the masterplan presented by the Italian team should remain as the common thread around which two parallel processes will evolve: participation and modification of the structure in terms of land legislation, and modification of all the existing plans or their cancelation. And we will then have to determine the choices to make regarding the property issues.
Laura Falcone, Architecte (IT) – “Ville+Sambre+Ville”
The Sambre River was for us the structuring axis of the project and its presence drove us to consider an area much larger than the proposed site. We adopted a territorial strategy over 20 years, which is essential to enhance all the potentialities of a currently underused resource: the transportation of goods on the Sambre indeed drastically reduced after the crisis of the local industry and more generally the global economy. The river therefore becomes the axis around which we restructure the fragmented landscape of the region made of small urban centres, industrial zones, abandoned natural zones, etc. We propose the creation of a riverside park to put all these disseminated elements together in a coherent system. As such, we are following the theme of Nature as structure.
At the urban scale, the river is currently a barrier between two very different parts of the town: the right bank has a well-defined city form while the left one –on which the site is located– is still practically considered as the rear side of the town. The creation of a riverside park on the West of the competition site could act as an urban attractor and re-link both parts of the town that now face each other without looking at one another, hence the name of the project: "Ville+Sambre+Ville".
How did we develop the project site? Westwards there is the riverside park equipped for open-air activities. We keep the central part as a spontaneous vegetation strip requiring very little maintenance and that stands as a protection and a dividing line between the public space of the park and the housing space. There is another vegetation strip around the centre of the site dedicated to vegetable gardens for citizens; and the housing stands eastwards with the residential district developed to stimulate social interaction between the inhabitants.
Regarding the implementation process, we went through approximately the same thing as in Savenay (FR): in December 2011 the Europan jury awarded two Runners-up and at the award ceremony in April 2012 there was a workshop in Sambreville’s town hall. We worked for two days with the other team and town representatives and our project was finally chosen for the follow-up. Then the next month we went back there to work on the integration of the modifications discussed during the workshop: we had to make the interface clearer between the public and the housing spaces; so we kept the shared yards as they are vital for the liveliness of the district, but we gave private gardens clearer limitations to guarantee the inhabitants’ privacy. We then redrew the vegetable garden strip and used it to better delimit the park from the housing area. Finally, we asked for a larger reflection of the park spatial continuity: as we are working on an area that is much larger that the project site, it is important to connect with the development or industrial zones, or with the abandoned natural ones, etc. We developed a strip system allowing case-by-case adaptation with a variation of the number of strips. In December 2012 elections slowed the process down; at the same time, it was also some kind of recognition for the project as it was integrated in the mayor’s program and he was re-elected.
On the administrative point of view the reflection was directed to the conditions to make the project possible. It is clear that the territorial approach was the strength of our project and that is what the city found interesting. At the same time that is also what makes the implementation quite complex: it is not as much about building as about rethinking the urban structure of the city and its surroundings. The tools and contracts are not always adapted and there are therefore many different actors. In March 2013 the municipality unanimously voted to commission us with a masterplan study based on our project, but this masterplan will probably need to revoke or modify the municipal planning scheme applicable to the site.
Right before the summer the municipality inserted our project in the projects portfolio for eligibility to the FEDER 2014-2020 program and we also worked on this too. A 5-ha masterplan of course takes a long time and for the last two years we have been thinking about a way to use this period in a smart and creative way so that it is not some time out, but on the contrary the occasion to consider different scenarios to involve additional actors and citizens, and also potentially to allow the project to evolve because the issues change, time passes and we would not want to be facing issues that are out-of-date when the implementation time comes. So adaptability and the in-between time are crucial for architects and urban planners and you can actually find these issues in the topics proposed for Europan 12. So we proposed the city to organise for example, instead of a first stone ceremony, a workshop with the citizens that would allow them to get to know the project approach better and even to participate to the design of a small part of the territory. For example we could work together at the construction of a small part of the park, to begin drawing the vegetable gardens, etc. Of course, this “adaptive” process cannot completely replace the traditional process – it is rather complementary. So on the long term the traditional process could go on with the classical method but at the same time leaving possibilities for the in-between time.
There are three timelines for the evolution of the implementation process: what we imagined at the time of the competition; the evolution of the project that we nowadays consider as possible, with a masterplan mission before the new elections in 2018 and following a classical method; and the “adaptive” process timeline, the participation process. The last two processes can actually complete one another and even integrate each other. We are currently waiting for the city reaction regarding this proposal and we know they met last September at the town hall so we are waiting to know the results.
Chris Younès, Philosopher, Teacher, Scientific Council (FR)
It is encouraging to see that the ideas will be thought again on site and if we used to treat with the Adaptable City, when we come to implementing, we are on in-situ re-adaptation. We also see how the process becomes a material for the project because if we want to create nature on the long term it also implies a whole legislative framework that slowly changes step by step.
Laura Falcone, Architect (IT) – E11 Sambreville (BE), “Ville+Sambre+Ville”
Yes, and it is all the more important for us as we are not on-site but in Italy. Things can change fast and we have to be adaptive designer architects, otherwise we will be overtaken by reality: our ideas can grow old if we do not feed them or keep them alive through the contact with the people or the client.
We are confronted to the same issues: at one moment in time with Europan we have to draw things and therefore know what will appear in the frame that will stay; but we also have to think about the flexibility we have to integrate in the project. And we can clearly see that the participation processes are done in an honest way, it is not having people participate just to have them participate, it is really about knowing which frame to keep and which part to submit to negotiation.
Alain Maugard, President Europan France (FR)
We should not forget where we come from. I remember a time in architecture when the architect’s work was protected. To take the example of von Spreckelsen’s Grande Arche in Paris’s La Défense business district, the architect’s widow sued the client for using the image of the building. So there was this difference between the client who order the work –and paid for it– and the architect who owned the image of the work. But who owns the urban project nowadays? Nobody! It is a collaboration process with the participation of the inhabitants, the politician in charge, the client, the mayor, etc. – it is a collective work. We went from the idea of the architecture that is “owned” –you “owned” the work– to the idea of a project that is a permanent process of appropriation of the changes in society and urban moves, a project you can say everyone was the actor of without no one owning it. So there is a deep change of this collective work. This might be one of the major mutations happening in Europan, and it might be the reason why we kept the Adaptable City as a topic: it is not something that goes out of date in two years but the fundamental question of a society that is not in crisis but in mutation, and you have to be able to work with such a mutating society and “make the revolution”, in the wise meaning of the expression.
Socrates Stratis, Architect, Teacher, Scientific Council (CY)
Europan is more and more dealing with larger urban scales and it therefore becomes more and more a political tool and the question then moves from “Who owns the project?” to “Who takes advantage of the project?” The question that I have is: How do you think this legal framework of masterplans can increase the profitability of the landscape for example, of non-human actors of the project? Because problems may arise with former modalities when a masterplan came from that era when the architect owned the projects; so how does this kind of adaptability of the architects also go to the side of the cities? What kinds of framework or collective decisions are there?
On the question of how the natural environment and the one that is not inhabited could take advantage of the plan, our position focused on what we called negotiation-frames, that is to say that the plan –what we called “Inhabited Islands”– was a heritage, an already on-going negotiation between the environment and a lifestyle, between a flood plain and the villages that have been settling there for centuries and found a way to interact. For us the only interest of the plan was to perpetuate the heritage. In this way it was a framework that should create mediation between the natural and the housing environments.
Alain Maugard, President Europan France (FR)
There is also the issue of the payment system. I have the feeling everything used to be based on a flat rate system when we are now considering a collaborative service on the long term; this looks more like advising, consulting, and we have to find a corresponding payment system. The work of an engineer used to be considered through the work that was done and there is now in the urban issue more investment in implementation than in reflection. To keep it simple: wouldn’t it be economically more interesting to work on a collaboration process of appropriation by the inhabitants, spending time, grey matter and collective intelligence, and sparing expenditures on curbs and macadam? It is not about less concrete buildings, it is just about less firm, fixed, non-transformable implementations and a little bit more collective intelligence. And of course this is to be paid too. But it is transformation, which means that we spend more time on preliminary reflection in the planning and architecture budgets. And it is clear that if we want to reduce costs on building, we should invest in the phase of design / implementation on a virtual model, we need to spend more on collaborative intelligence at work.
Europan 12 Implementation Processes
ASKER (NO), EUROPAN 12
Miia-Liina Tommila, Architect (FI) – Winner, “Kaleidoscope”
Our project is located in Norway, in an abandoned psychiatric hospital area; the houses are already deteriorating and there is an urge to find solutions and regulations. It was proposed to Europan to explore the kinds of living that could take place there. This is also a major natural heritage site in Norway with a very particular atmosphere. Dikemark is currently an area that is not regulated, mainly because of the structure of the hospital; but now that the hospital has gone, the municipality wants to have Dikemark as a regulated area in their plan and before we can start any work there, it has to be politically decided; they are currently working on a general plan, and that is a long process that we are waiting for.
Our proposal is a masterplan in form of a strategy, and a strategy in form of a masterplan, so all our strategic steps connect to areas of the masterplan. We proposed a 7-step implementation strategy, with seven actions derived from seven goals to ensure a multiplicity and a plurality of actors for the future of Dikemark, because there is no single actor –I mean one mono-functional actor as there has been before in history– that could solve the issue today, with the hospital now out of the site. This 7-step flexible strategy is to be implemented in a chronological order or in parallel with a set of different actors: public and corporate owners, developers, the Norwegian government, housing corporative, i.e. bottom-up strategies, investors and perhaps also a foundation; and the masterplan is done in such a way that it grows in different directions for the different typologies on site.
The seven steps of the project –“the Landscape twist”, “Open by the water”, “the Twin Plaza”, “University Program”, “Hidden In The Woods”, “the Castle Hotel” and “Kaleidoscope”– range from public actions to “re-introduce” the site the people, to selling lands to finance the common projects, to promoting long-term commitment in the form of university programs based on local productions, to establishing a mix of typologies and uses –with students and elderly people sharing common spaces–, to attracting foreign visitors and investors, and finally to changing perspectives and questioning actions taken in protected environments The complexity of Dikemark comes from different types of ownership: the Oslo municipality owns the land, although the site is located in another town, Asker; the buildings are owned by the Oslo university hospital, which is basically the Norwegian State. So we have all these different players and it was a complicated process for them to try establish a common goal through participating in Europan, because they had different sort of desires for this site in the first place.
We now have to face three main challenges: the slow political process: the state hospital is not really willing to use money to refurbish the deteriorating buildings as they want to sell and use the money for the patients and the treatments, so some old buildings are at the bottom of the priority list; this means for example that we cannot go on with any kind of pop-up or temporary uses and this is something that we are still trying to discuss with them. Then there are also economic aspects, with the Oslo municipality willing to sell the land to get good profit and a traffic issue as the site is close to Asker center, so if we attract a lot of inhabitants in Dikemark then the traffic will increase and create problems because the road is not in very good shape. When it comes to "Kaleidoscope" as a team, we have the challenge of being located in Finland and Norway and we needed a Norwegian office to be able to operate with our clients.
GRONINGEN (NL), EUROPAN 12
Jan Martijn Eekhof, Urban Designer (NL)
Groningen is in the North of Netherlands and we have quite a long tradition with Europan: this is our fourth Europan session, two projects have already successfully been implemented (E3 “Fortuitious Filtration” and E6 “Urban Symbiosis”), we are working on the third one and we are also already working on the fourth one as we built a first step of the E12 winning project, so this is maybe going to be the fastest Europan project ever and it is just a start as we are learning by doing.
The sugar factory area is a huge industrial site that suddenly closed down in 2008. In 2010 the city decided to buy the land for strategic reasons. We actually do not have any housing or office program because we have many other projects running. Here, we put the whole process of making city plans upside down and said: we have to invite people, participants to make this masterplan together. The Europan site is actually on the edge of this huge industrial area. The sugar factory is so big that the whole inner city could actually fit into it. So you can imagine that it is not just one program that we can plan here, but a real mix of programs and we actually want to create a lively part of a new city, which cannot be done overnight, so we need a long-term strategy.
In 2008 the whole sugar plants closed down, the factory was demolished and the only things we could keep were the oldest derelicts of the site. In 2011 the dismantling process was finished and in 2013 we decided to participate in Europan, and in 2014 Elizabeth Keller and Remco Rolvink won the competition on the site. We had to be very flexible and creative, and there are a few lessons to be learnt from the whole process.
We invited the alderman to the first meeting and we said: “We have this beautiful plan, but actually it is a very complicated slow process”. And we needed a connection –the bridge– by the summer. As Elizabeth and Remco are very professional and creative, they changed the whole process and made it into a very fast bridge. The temporary event bridge opened in 2014; this is really important because the whole area was not connected to cycling and pedestrians before and this connection is the first step to invite people to get to know the area and come up with ideas.
We of course wanted to stick to the core of the project but we also had to divide it into phases; and if you divide it into phases, you can also, with smaller budgets and ideas, slowly create the final vision of what you want to create; but this final vision can change and we do not know where it ends. So although you keep the main idea in mind, small interventions are the sparks that make this area lively.
As far as finding stakeholders is concerned, investors do not take the site over to roll out their programs anymore, and we have to work with many smaller parties; of course bigger parties can also be a part of the plan, but it is really a team work, and finding stakeholders also means that you have to find the right politicians, get them into action, find the right creative people, and this was also one big reason to ask Europan to make a plan for the site. So this is the first small part of a much bigger plan that Elizabeth and Remco are working on.
Elizabeth Keller, Architect (NL) – Winner, “Prelude”
“Prelude” is like a strategy that invites actions. It is also a strategy without programming, a strategy about local people growing the building material on site and building themselves their own public space.
We see this field as a big open unprogrammed field and it needs its own centre, its own public space that connects the other site from the Hoendiep canal with the only building left on site. We also see that when free field gets in use there can be temporary events and this space will become the meeting point in the middle. Our invention is a physical connector as well as an attractor – it is a part of a system that will grow and evolve with planting, harvesting and drying of Miscanthus that later on will be used as building material. The project is done for the people from Groningen and by them too as they will be invited to join the process so that the site becomes their space again; a hundred years ago it was an important factory for the city, everyone everyday smelled the smell of the sugar factory and it was deeply on their mental map. Nowadays it is an empty unused space and we think that if Groningers build their own city, this will be on their mental maps again.
It is a gradual slow process that takes years. The assignment said there was no money so we thought there is a lot of time and we can take it slowly: with Franck Bucher’s Xiriton formula in mind, we want to plant Miscanthus on the site and you would already see it when you come from the city centre, as a first sign that something is happening there. Miscanthus is a planting material that grows very fast; used in a mixture, it will provide part of the building material for the construction on the site. It is a gradual low cost strategy; you can also imagine that the harvesting material has different colours every time, and there will be layers like in a tree, so that you count the years that it takes to grow the whole strip.
Now, the bridge is built on the Hoendiep site and when it is finished it will be turned to the other site and then the “Prelude” project can start. This strategy was made possible when the municipality decided to start the “Prelude” process and they are now in charge of organization and the first funding. From there the planting of Miscanthus takes place and the friends of the sugar factory will start. Volunteers will be participating and trained to crafting skills by professionals; the friends also initiate crowdfunding initiatives. The process of implementing “Prelude” as an architect means being part of the process, bringing this to life and being a discussion partner for the municipality project leader. We can also be members of a team, checking the quality of initiatives and giving input to the urban design team, like in workshops. A community of practice can also be found with specific disciplines related to growing Miscanthus, building this bridge and developing communal and social context, like participation and crowdfunding.
PARIS SACLAY (FR), EUROPAN 12
Marine Seemuller, Direction Aménagement Établissement public Paris Saclay (FR)
There are many different actors on the site proposed to Europan: first there is the Paris Saclay public institution that deals in priority with the planning of the Saclay plateau; then there is the university, with education as a first priority, and that represents a large site as well as an important heritage, but that is not necessarily used to urban planning logics; and finally you also have the city of Bures-sur-Yvette and the CROUS, the institution in charge of student accommodation in the valley. And we first came to meet Europan with these partners to think about the subject. The first step was to gather the different partners to be able to launch the process.
What did Europan bring us after the first phase of the competition? First, 3 exceptional teams that did a really remarkable job and gave us a slightly different look on the territory and made us understand that the different actors’ projects were actually compatible and that we just needed to talk to each other; in this way, we were very happy and it was the first time that we had sat around a table with the different partners, that was our first platform. The next step is of course –and all the partners agree on that– to convert the try. We had a meeting last April with the three teams, the partners and the teams working with them; the projects were presented and everyone seemed interested although not all of them work with the same agenda (political agenda, university agenda…) and that point will be the major difficulty to start the process. We nevertheless tried to work on a brief and on a consultation by the end of the year, but this means we need the partners to work together. Then as far as more flexible consultation modes are concerned, we need to think with very different actors about another working method, a more flexible one, maybe more occasional and that allows us to work with a certain economy of means to set up a relevant project, as most of the actors do not necessarily have a lot of money.
Aurélien Delchet, Architect (FR) – Runner-Up, “Lieu(x) de négociation(s)”
Our site is located on the cluster Paris Saclay, a governmental initiative that is a part of the ambitious project of the Greater Paris. They want to make that site an innovation site because there is a lot of people, important schools and universities are being developing, with research labs, industries linked to the activities and research centres. The site is within the boundary down in the valley, just below the Saclay plateau. Many stakeholders at larger and smaller scales are developing their own project without really talking to one another. If you look at the site the city centre of Bures-sur-Yvette is on the South and the Saclay plateau on top; when you zoom in the city centre has a project and the university too, but without a clear strategy. So there are three main projects being developed at the same time, within their own boundaries, yet without exchanging.
We are pretty far from the government’s intention to create that innovation place site on the plateau. The project is actually connecting the city centre in the South with a major train station to the new ambitious project on top. We defined a main axis that goes straight up to the top of the hill and all the buildings are implemented along that main axis on small flat platforms revealed by the geological and topographical approaches. So we do not really define boundaries, but rather platforms where everything will take place. At the bottom there are for example students housings from the university and if you go further north you have another platform with sports equipment shared with the university and the city. So instead of proposing a masterplan, we propose those platforms on which we can invite the right stakeholders and ask them the right questions. The first phase is then to identify the key spots where the platform meets the main mobility axis, and then within time we negotiate with other stakeholders to develop other buildings and facilities.
Negotiations have existed for probably 200 years on that site: on the plateau nobody could touch the listed natural site at first, but then the university came in and they had to find ways to implement their buildings, and now it has become quite precious, everybody wants to preserve it or copy it, everybody wants to be there. The negotiations through the centuries have been in the site’s DNA and now by the end of the 2014 we started to talk around the table and we presented the Europan site to the main stakeholders.
Maia Tüür, & Yoann Dupouy, Architects (FR) – Runner-Up, “Reversing the Grid”
Our project started from an observation: there are 3 sites, or 3 almost-institutional entities with their own rhythms and logics. The project started with the will to find back and generate links between the entities that are not used to coexisting. We identified three major challenges on the South campus site: the first one is the presence of nature that is extremely powerful, yet not really accessible, just like the fragmented network of foot paths; there is also public spaces that nowadays are reduced to the roads as this space is a network of scattered dead-end roads and there is no link between the buildings; and it is also an interface zone between the South campus site and the surrounding cities as there are no interfaces there nowadays, there is no communication, just borders.
It is important to look at what happens on the plateau to understand the territory: there is a major transformation project, right next to the South campus, and it is based on extremely simple data. It uses three main elements as tools: the urban grid that generates density and creates diversity; then the space is structured by a large public space; and then there is the intermediate nature to create an interface. For us, the situation in the valley was somehow reversed: the urban density that was sought on the plateau was absent from the site, but nature had this density and that is why the urban grid on the plateau became for us a natural grid in the valley. And to find the double coherence back, the main spaces South of the plateau become university clearings in the valley to link the university buildings.
The tool of “intermediate nature” became a concept of “intermediate city” in our project because we thought that we had to set a transition towards the existing housing area, and therefore towards the town of Bures-sur-Yvette. And so the three areas presented earlier are as such: there is the natural grid on which we reintroduce the concept of grid; it is not yet defined, it remains adaptable and it will be built in time; on the other hand it should rebuild the discontinuous links on the site. Then there are the university clearings as open public spaces to rebuild between the university buildings; they don’t have clear limitations and they will be formed with the destruction of some buildings, but also with the renovation of others and the construction of new ones that will be placed on the grid traced on the site. And finally there is the intermediate city as an interface between the territory of the university and the housing districts of Bures-sur-Yvette. We propose to install the inhabitants and the student accommodation in these districts, as an interface with the inhabitants of the valley.
So we have three very specific environments linked to nature, to university rhythms and to the urban rhythms of the existing towns. We tried to give the uses their own development logics because the actors are very different; of course, all the elements are interrelated and defined in comparison to one another. We thought in terms of rhythms: the goal of our approach was of course not to separate the students and the inhabitants but to create specialized environments while giving them chances to meet, open them to different publics not to juxtapose the uses but to try find frictions between them as well as coexistences.
Nowadays, in terms of process, we are about to discuss with the developer about the follow-up of the project. We consider nature as the regulation matrix; and coming back to what Chris Younès was saying earlier on nature as structure, it is with this matrix and with small interventions on the pedestrian links that we will be able to start acting on the project and on the site.
MILANO (IT), EUROPAN 12
Franco Zinna, Urban Planning Director (IT)
The site is located in the South of Milano and was somehow put aside of the general development and the situation nowadays is now a little bit strange. In December 2013 the municipality became the owner of a million square meters, 400,000 of which being concerned by the revitalisation of the zone. We haven’t integrated the winning teams of the competition to the process yet, but the site presents a situation with many activities that are more or less legal. After some legal requests, we proposed the legal activities to sign temporary contracts to manage the zone as best as possible. On August 11th, 2014, we made a first intervention that was quite important, as there were two Rom camps of 450 units. The field was therefore left vacant and we set up a 24/7 surveillance, especially as the Rom presence had generated a complicated environmental situation.
On the environmental point of view, Milano does not have very precise management rules; if you compare it to the Netherlands, it is actually a real disaster in Italy nowadays on that point. The environmental survey that will be carried out on the plot will nevertheless determine –on the points of view of the cleaning operation, the economy and the investments– the functions to set up concerning the intentions in the Europan program and the very good results that we received. We will then have to determine the programs –production or accommodation– and make sure the district does not become a ghetto. Next October, we will make environmental measures on the whole plot to be able to modify the situation; the task to be given to the winning team will mainly be of assistance, but it will certainly end up with a financed spatial intervention. This is the situation in which we are now and we are aiming at having a first draw of the masterplan by the end of the year, January 2015 at last.
Cyrille Lamouche, Architect (FR) – Winner, “Landscape Transition“
The zone of Porto di Mare is an urban limit at the South of Milano, a transition with the countryside that we considered as a new central point integrated into Milano’s green belt. Today, the site is totally isolated and it is difficult to get there; there are also illegal and insalubrious settings on it as well as a former tip to clean up. Still, despite all this, the site presents the necessary assets to its development, especially in terms of landscape view and access (with train and metro stations.) We tried to develop a unifying project that answers the issue of the border between city and countryside, an economically viable project, realistic and flexible in time and use. Our approach gives the site territory a strong structure and identity while letting the different parts free to develop. The idea was to support the inhabitants to participate to the development, but also to preserve and reinforce the existing, like the sports resorts and the architecturally interesting buildings. We also tried to take advantage of the landscape elements creating visual opening lines, integrating the park South of the site, favouring agricultural zones and creating neighbourhood life with common spaces, especially shared garden and a landscape amphitheatre.
The structure of our project is a rural boulevard that stands as the spine of the project and that we consider as a tool for the future development. It creates a soft landscape transition between city and countryside and gathers all the fluxes and the neighbourhood life; it also proposes different activities that inhabitants can take over with time and it therefore evolves with their uses of it. Finally, it presents identified sequences punctuated by points of interest and supports green continuity with the rest of the city as it joins Milano’s green belt and answers the issue of the integration of agriculture in Milano’s conurbation.
The whole project is based on the existing structure; it is adaptable in time according to the client’s financial resources and can therefore integrate the municipality’s development process. So far the municipality has acquired almost the entire site, we still have to see how it develops with the actors on site, who might be integrated into the project. The project presents a new way to deal with the space between city and countryside; it is divided into different sequences: the first is linked to the metro station North of the site, it is quite an urban sequence connected to the city, with the district on the North; the second is related to agriculture, it is at the heart of the project and stands between the agricultural fields outside the site and the park; the third one answers the issue of “living between city and countryside”, it is a transition towards the park; and the last one is the one opening on the landscape, especially towards the Chiaravalle Abbey that is absolutely beautiful.
Mathias Rollot, Architect, Researcher, Technical Committee (FR)
There is a topic we can find in the projects: the duality between “to attract” and “ to connect”. The idea of nature is precisely what attract and connects, it is what stimulates the debates in each project, and it is to me what seems to make each Europan project stronger at the beginning and that gives more strength today to the on-going implementation processes.
Chris Younès, Philosopher, Teacher, Scientific Council (FR)
These projects are large-scale projects: cities open calls for ideas on problematic sites that yet also bear important political issues. We can see very clearly how teams adapted inventing new ways of consultation or of working on the field, but also imagining other ways and tools for architecture. The main question is that, if new innovating ideas around nature are becoming more and more obvious, what can help us implement them in the end? What could block us in this way and on the contrary, what could help us? The teams anyway clearly showed us their own capacity to find a major process with a whole agenda that builds itself as a collective working plan.
Jan Martijn Eekhof, Urban Designer (NL) – Groningen (NL)
After the example of the beautiful Norwegian project I believe that you have to get people to see the qualities of the site, you have to get it into their mental map. We started to do this very literally in Groningen because the area had been fenced off for more than hundred years and now people get to know it. We are working on really small interventions that people start to use as a part of their network, to go to school, to go to their work… And the place becomes a natural part of the city network. And if you reach this, then you already made a big step in your project. In this sense, the project in France may start with small routes and letting people get to know the area, get it into their mental maps, and then also invite investors and people with ideas and by this I believe your team can grow and your work on the project gets a kick-start.
This is indeed what we have been dealing with since this morning, especially on the site in Paris Saclay. This is also the transition from the logic of perimeters and actors that work individually to the logic of interests: all these projects point at common interests that are way stronger than the breaks linked to the infrastructures. The meaning of our projects is therefore to highlight the interests and nature is somehow the central medium where these interests meet; this is why working on nature is most often a very good starting point.
Alain Maugard, Président Europan France (FR)
I believe that if there is a long process, it is necessarily a process of recognition. There can be no continuity without the will to transform. In the past, the process was sometimes felt as a bit violent; consultation meant how to have the inhabitants accept the project, everything was decided without them. From the moment we work on a long process, the inhabitants join the transformation and in the end, everyone –inhabitants, decision makers and clients, architects– is on the same boat and it is all about making the trip as pleasant as possible. And the question of nature is doubtless a question that gathers everyone: who doesn’t love nature? Who would pretend they are not sensitive to it? In the end we are now heading to delicacy processes, to gradual transformations. I wonder if it is not a change of nature on the way to consider the urban issue. The urban question abandoned the idea of a drawing, of some kind of morphology; the North-South axis has to be abandoned, because it used to be the city. But the explanation may be that when the city was reduced to this North-South / East-West axis –i.e. the Roman plan– it was because the city was in minority and most of civilisation was rural; the cities were still budding and it was not logical that they would be born in a certain violent way.
Our contemporary society is mainly urban, we are all “homo urban”, we were born urban. We used to be rural becoming urban and now we are “urban-born”, and these “urban-born” rediscover that they live in a nature, in a nature that has been transformed by man and at that moment, it goes the other way round: the city prevails, it develops as if naturally without violence; I wonder if this is not the swing that is happening around urban transformation and where nature is the right excuse, is the right recognition catalyst.
Franco Zinna, Urban Planning Director (IT) – Venezia (IT)
Building a feeling of belonging to a place is the most difficult thing ever. Because building is codified. Building a feeling of belonging is a social action and it is much more difficult, it is not codified. Therefore, what is taking place in Groningen (NL) seems very interesting to me on the question of spaces that were abandoned by the city; using them temporarily is already beginning to make them live and to give birth to the idea that they can produce immaterial interest. But of course this has a price. Therefore, giving life back to situations just like the ones we saw –more or less industrial or abandoned zones to restore– with the participation of the people and not of major stakeholders would be the best thing ever. It of course opens a conflict that we have to deal with, and certain people are already working on this, but the result is enormous and positive.
Miia-Liina Tommila, Architect (FI) – E12 Asker (NO), Winner, “Kaleidoscope”
In our project reversing the sense of belonging is going to play a major role in the process because we have to transform and reverse the mental image of the psychiatric hospital and how people perceive it. We have been considering sort of a low-key temporary process and approach that could be a good tool and actually using art as a way to create a desire to make people see the other qualities on site rather than its heavy past, a desire to see and have something else there. But it is also very difficult: How do you work with the slowness of the political process, when there is a sort of top level, like dinosaurs basically moving slowly? How can we work with this?
Jan Martijn Eekhof, Urban Designer (NL) – Groningen (NL)
We were also lucky with the Elderman and sometimes it is indeed a question of luck; but we invited him in the first place and made him a part of the process, putting him up front. Politicians are major stakeholders, it was shortly before the elections and it could have gone two ways: he could have said “No, this is too risky for me, I do not want to attach my name to this project”; but it went the other way, the way we wanted it: he really launched it as a part of his election strategy and said he actually wanted to do it much faster. So I think you should really invite them in the beginning of the process; politicians want what we all want, that is try to show the people some quick results, you can really do this very well with temporary projects, with events, with showing the people that the area has a value for the city. And if you make the project too heavy, plan a lot of programs and buildings on it, make a really beautiful but maybe complicated masterplan, then you make it too heavy and politicians lose their interests.