When the Allier becomes City

Moulins( FR) – Runner-up


Team Representative: Simon Guillemot (FR) – architect; Associates: Charly Crochu (FR), Jean-Benoît Boccaren (FR) – architects
Contributor: Camille Serres (FR) – architect

Projet08, 12 rue Christian Dewet, 75012 Paris – France
+33 6 99 24 47 06 – architectes@projet08.com – www.projet08.com

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J.-B. Boccaren, S. Guillemot & C. Crochu


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

Projet08 aims at continuing and developing in practice a common education received at the School of Architecture of Paris-la-Villette, built around the intrinsic link between city and architecture. Attached to the exercise of the urban project, our approach is to design the urban fabric as a flexible and adaptable system in the contemporary city.

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)?

Around the proposed topic of "How to transform physical barriers into new connections? ", the project considers the town of Moulins as an inflection point in the park of the Val d'Allier and proposes to reinstate the suburb into the heart of the city, turning the Allier River into a unifying space linking both banks. As a starting point for a new frame of public spaces structuring the city in depth, the River becomes the place to develop new activities and social practices.


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

The project considers the mutation of the Faubourg de la Madeleine –currently constituted by the spontaneous development of pavilions along the tracks and the presence of large institutional enclosures– as an opportunity to assert its own character by reinterpreting existing forms: the project proposes the creation of open spaces in the heart of the block echoing the large enclosures of the CNCS and the diocese. This system of slow and gradual densification of the suburb goes with demographic changes related to the new attractiveness of the city.


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

We have frequently faced the question of the relationship between city and water and its major potential through our experiences. One of our reference projects is the one proposed by the germe&JAM atelier in Vitry-sur-Seine (FR), which puts the issue of flood risks in the heart of the urban development project, both in terms of infrastructure, public spaces and urban fabrics definition. This planning of the river particularly questions the issue of hydraulic transparency and accessibility of the site in case of floods. The development of the banks of the Saône River performed by the In Situ office, developing recreational and relaxation areas in the flood zone, has also influenced us as water and overflown spaces regain their territory to the centre of town. The design of the Boat Station Park was also partly inspired by the Qunli National Urban Wetland project (CN), which develops a landscape area acting as a sponge to soak up the different water-related hazards while maintaining a certain wilderness, staged for the walker trough a system of footbridges and levels rides.


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?

If the question of the economy of an urban project and its impact on the ecosystem is more accurate today in times of economic crisis and the COP21, it is for us an inherent data to any urban project, and it passes through the project rationality and its ability to integrate a functional mix in the proposed morphologies.
Rational, because our approach is based on the evolution of the existing urban fabric and its gradual transformation. Designing new public spaces implies the extension and strengthening of the existing outlines and spaces making the project more thrifty in terms of infrastructure.
The formation of a dense and flexible urban fabric should support the funding of high standard public spaces. The urban forms established, taking as a starting point our vision of suburbs, offer flexibility of uses and functions, interviewing possible nesting and coexistence of various typologies. If the project questions a district, the urban planning is a powerful lever for the dynamism of the city and its territory. To change a city amounts to redefine its image and practice.
Taking the relationship between the city and its territory as the project central issue, we studied the idea of implementing a large park as an economic and cultural showcase linking Moulins to its hinterland. Located at the point of tangency between the urban space, the agricultural plain that surrounds it and the Allier River, at the crossroads of major structural axes, the project is located at a strategic point for the creation of a space with flexible program, accommodating areas of research and education, economic and cultural activities.

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 have participated to the competition. This recognition will be for us a way to achieve our approach and initiate a reflection and production process in line with the city representatives. It is also a way to modestly emerge on the architectural scene and access to first orders in a difficult context for the new generations of architects.