Bridging between urbanists, architects and landscape designers
Henri Bava, Michel Hössler and Olivier Philippe, the three founders and directors of Agence Ter, all driven by the same curiosity, are pushing back the limits of their profession by experimenting with a transverse approach to urban and territorial projects, far from the usual opposition between urban planners, architects and landscape designers.
The continuous broadening of the in-house expertise now means that Agence Ter can offer solutions to complex urban planning projects, still approaching them from the landscape perspective. The three founders and their team focus their attention on existing conditions, the context, relying on certain outstanding elements of the landscape to propose a conceptual approach capable of maintaining the constituent components of a site whilst triggering a renewal of the venue. The three associates act with the firm desire to promote landscape as a vector for metropolitan change.
Conceptualising the essence of a project whilst using physical, geographical or historical and memory-based elements as a foundation allows a better shared understanding of the challenges, fostering dialogue between the stakeholders and facilitating interactive exchanges with the residents. Far from opposing the contextual and conceptual approaches, Agence Ter aims on the contrary to achieve a judicious balance of the two, ultimately operating at different scales, from the district to the inter-urban area, and all the way up to the large-scale territory.
Understanding the territory as a whole to imagine the urban landscapes of tomorrow
The possibility of exploring large-scale territories was very quickly offered to Agence Ter, almost on its creation: the direction set by incoming orders and the desire to diversify experiences led the three associates, based in Paris, to create different branches firstly in French Guyana then in Germany. This contact with territory-related issues in different cultural contexts allowed the acquisition of a real capacity to adapt to the most wide ranging scales and grasp cultural specificities to support the development of the territory, whilst maintaining a common theme.
Agence Ter is now developing its approach to large metropolitan territories through planning studies placing the geography and its landscapes at the centre of the city-territory problematic, thus offering a tool for change, within the frame of a concerted approach, at a very early stage of the project with the involvement of all stakeholders.
Developing an integrated approach with geography
The contemporary city is constantly changing and the urban, peri-urban and suburban aspects must be considered more often than not with, in that order, a greater landscape presence. The goal is therefore to successfully combine landscape and urban aspects through constant research. It is only by starting from the landscape, and the understanding of this, that we can develop new urban forms: the range for experimentation is now very broad, fostered by the widely shared desire and obligation to address at a very early stage of the project the questions regarding the environment, surface water management, energy efficiency, the optimisation of public-space maintenance, the integration of new materials and technologies. This goes well beyond the issue of sustainable constructions as it is the notion of a sustainable territory that must be considered within the context of a project approach, for example to demonstrate that the creation of a new urban structure can strengthen a site’s biodiversity. Over and above the question of urban planning, Agence Ter makes the most of what already exists to invent new ways of living in and taking advantage of the city: this is for example what is proposed in the «Inhabited Wood» district in Lille, or the Illkirch ecological quarter along the canal banks and the river district in Mantes-la-Jolie for which Agence Ter is the lead consultant.
An open-minded approach, intellectual curiosity and the desire to contribute to today’s changing world means that Agence Ter has a whole range of possibilities to explore on a daily basis, with the landscape as the starting point but without imposing limits: domesticating infrastructures, accompanying water movements, exploring very large territories, discovering new territories that bring new cultures and new approaches.