The inaugural Exterior Architecture study tour took place in Paris last Friday and Saturday and will go down as an out and out success. The London and Manchester studios combined forces on the two-day extravaganza which took in a range of Parisian landscapes and a couple of Parisian hostelries to boot.
After an early start, we arrived into Gare de Nord mid-morning and set out to our first point of call. The Trapèze area is part of the major Ile Seguin development that is ongoing in Boulogne-Billancourt, a former Renault factory site on the banks of the Seine. The mixed-use development will eventually have more than 12,000 inhabitants and 12,000 employees. We were interested to see the generous ‘green streets’, SuDS features and two public parks. The scheme is phased and it was fascinating to see how phase 1, completed in 2011, had established in comparison with the recently completed second phase. The streets were very green and lush and provided a unifying element to the mixed architectural styles. They did appear, however, to be subject to a noticeably laissez-faire maintenance regime. The varied tree planting was a real fixture of this area with Gleditsia triacanthos, Styphnolobium japonicum and Quercus palustris amongst the highlights.
From Boulogne-Billancourt, we made a short hop to the Auteuil Race Course Park. Completed in 2013 this park makes use of the central space within the race track and incorporates sports facilities and waterbodies. The idea of creating a park in this oft overlooked space should be applauded and there was some interesting use of materials and detailing within this multi-layered park. Some of the more abstract design languages perhaps failed to translate onto the ground.
Friday evening was spent sampling some delicious Parisian cuisine and practicing our best French…
Saturday morning we set out fresh(ish) faced, heading north to the Clichy Batignolles area and Parc Martin Luther King. This park is a familiar precedent for many of our projects and certainly lived up to the hype. The 10ha former rail yard site was alive with users playing, exercising and generally enjoying what was a beautiful September morning. The park consists of waterbodies, tree lined avenues and swathes of ornamental grasses that looked resplendent in the golden Autumn sun.
Our second stop on Saturday was to Chausson’s Garden in Gennevilliers. The garden puts a lot of emphasis on biodiversity but also aims to provide for the local population. A large play area was well used but much of the rest of the space had been had been planted as a meadow with concrete routes running through. The use of concrete was interesting but the space, designed as a wandering garden, had us wondering what was the point.
Our final stop on the Saturday was to the recently completed Grand Parc Saint-Ouen – Park of the Docks, winner of the 2017 LILA award for best project. Again, this park has a fantastic play area and a focus on rainwater harvesting. It was interesting to see the importance the French place on sustainable rain water management principles. Also incorporated into this park was a large community allotment that was well managed and appeared to be a real asset to the local population. As with Boulogne-Billancourt and Parc Martin Luther King the tree and planting palette here was varied with an unexpected emphasis on exotic species.
We saw loads of great landscape examples on the trip that will hopefully inform and inspire our future work. The bold use of concrete, the sustainable drainage systems and the desire to make community assets of their green spaces was particularly impressive. We kept a visual diary of what we saw and discussed the merits of the spaces we visited. The gallery shows some of what we liked best!