BRUSSELS / Metropolitan Landscapes : Molenbeek Valley

BRUSSELS / Metropolitan Landscapes : Molenbeek Valley

The Molenbeek Valley is a historical landscape, rich in natural environments and activities, and reflects the opportunities and threats for the position of landscape and (peripheral) open space within the metropolitan development of Brussels. With its position between the regions of Flanders, and the Brussels Capital Region, the valley is marked by an administrative and political rupture in addition to  the large contrast between city and countryside. Therefore, the Molenbeek valley is a hinge territory, offering much potential to become an instigator for the development of tomorrow’s peripheral Brussels.

In this research by design project, the urban fabric is reflected and shaped by its landscape structures, primarily read in section. The strategy for the development of the Molenbeek Valley is based upon the topographical characteristics of the site. This leads to the definition of multiple morpho-typologies of open space depending on their height within the valley structure: hilltop, cascade and low valley. These functional as well as spatial typologies translate into locations: for a (metropolitan) landmark, for an intensive confrontation with the urban tissue or for a natural corridor.

The overall vision for the Valley is to create a productive park for Brussels West, inducing a mind shift in the metropolis and allowing the urgent problematic of food sustainability to become visible. The park will introduce short circuits, and will combine ecological, productive and public spaces into one coherent (peri-urban) landscape structure. The relation with the surrounding tissue is essential in this respect. Diverse pilot projects have been pre-defined for the different sequences (rural, hinge or urban) of the park.

The metropolitan landscape of the Molenbeek Valley becomes a hinge and lever for the development of the Northwestern periphery of Brussels.

NANTES / Edges to Edges

NANTES / Edges to Edges

« Edges to Edges » is a prospective metropolitan strategy that anticipates the future rising water level in the metropolis of Nantes-Saint-Nazaire.  The strategy is materialized into six pilot projects, representing the diversity of the landscapes in the region.

The proposed territorial network relies on the territory’s geography and history. The landscape is characterized by the ever present influence of water: vegetation, crossings and movements are witnesses of its presence. As real interfaces, the edges in all their diversity become the privileged spaces for the project interventions.

In the short term, this evolutionary strategy proposes various actions for prefiguration that activate the edges. In the long term, a renewed metropolitan dynamic is presented.

RENNES / Downstream Vilaine Valley

RENNES  / Downstream Vilaine Valley

This project is founded on analysis of the entire valley territory of 25 km of river banks. The territory is fragmented and lacking identity: the river and its banks have the strong image and the potential to create common ground by reinvigorating the link between the Vilaine River and its countryside.

The park of the Vilaine reworks the composition of the territory and brings together its various components, specifically through the creation of direct links between the two banks. The idea is to associate diverse and qualitative lifestyles with many activities, by creating a neighbourhood park to enhance the quality of life of local inhabitants.

The park is structured around two itineraries/routes, which become real energy lines articulating the amenities of the territory. At the crossing of the two lines, places of intensity with activity programming are introduced.

BORDEAUX / 55 000 ha for Nature

BORDEAUX / 55 000 ha for Nature

The territorial study «55000 ha for nature» is an interrogation concerning the role of nature within the metropolitan development of Bordeaux. This problematic is primarily present and visible where urban extensions are producing new and indefinite interfaces between the city and the «non-city». These spaces represent an opportunity for urban growth at the same time as an intensification of nature within the urban fabric.

These interfaces are the edges where urban and rural assets, traditionally secluded and separate, are intermingling, particularly concerning agriculture, the cultivable land and the viability of the agricultural exploitations at the city’s edges. The study has led us to associate urban and rural landscape elements together to induce a maximal complementarity.

Five large categories of edge have been defined: forest edges, water edges, agricultural edges, park edges and infrastructural edges. These interfaces concentrate the important issues for tomorrow. If treated as priority zones for development projects, they could lead to innovations in urban thinking related to nature. On several sites within the boundary of Bordeaux, this approach has been applied and investigated in depth and in interaction with different stakeholders.

ANTIBES / Sophia Antipolis

ANTIBES / Sophia Antipolis

Sophia Antipolis, an innovative technology park created in the seventies and early eighties, incarnated the urban dream of working in a natural context. Its renewal calls for a veritable city in nature, imagining new methods of relations and exchange, of social and programmatical mixity, of renewed urban life with a new regard and respect for nature.

Agence Ter’s proposals respond to the labyrinthine reality of the territory, resulting from recent evolutions, with a network of slow transport routes which enhance perceptions of the territory.  As well as composing with the natural capital of the area, a parallel cultural and urban attractivity assures true sustainability, and is a crucial objective in the positioning of new nodes within the technopolis.

The masterplan incorporates these concerns to guide the technology park towards an exemplary renewal.  It is conceived as a “charter for nature as capital”, a reference document that can be communicated to politicians and developers, as well as the technical services in charge of the public spaces and forests of Sophia.

The charter accentuates the structuring role of the major natural landscape elements such as the valleys and hills, today under threat from the ever expanding technopolis. It seems evident that these elements should guide the ‘green and blue’ framework for structuring renewal of the park and providing for slow transport routes such as pedestrian and cycle ways.

An update of the 1977 landscape charter is a tool to examine, reinforce and reinterpret the founding concepts of the park to adapt to societal and landscape changes of the last 40 years. The “charter for nature as capital” firstly identifies the fundamental elements to respect and protect on the scale of the larger landscape (valleys, summits, non-constructible zones) and secondly identifies the multiple issues that confront the varied stakeholders involved in the renewal and development of Sophia Antipolis.

CHANGSHA / West Meixi Lake

CHANGSHA / West Meixi Lake

To respond to demographic needs whilst stimulating economic growth, the city of Changsha is developing a new urban extension at its periphery, based on ecological principles.  This sustainable quarter links the historical old town to isolated urban elements on the facing bank of the river (a university campus, an industrial area and a business district) and the concept of the masterplan is guided by the hydrological system and the topography. An east-west axis connects two landscape lakes. Perpendicular to this movement, north-south transversals link the mountains to the city. These secondary connections are based on the hydrological system, the open space network and the existing road system and the ecological functions of these elements (ecological continuities, water purification, heath island effect, biodiversity islands, etc.) are reinforced to create an ecological matrix on the scale of the city.

SEINE AVAL / Seine Park

SEINE AVAL / Seine Park

The area forming Seine Park stretches out to the west of Paris along the valley of the Seine between the towns of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine and Jeufosse in the Yvelines department, a linear distance of some 84 km of river banks. Something more than landscape composition is needed to approach this territorial scale,  within which the River Seine is a living component with its floods and complex geography made up from islands, oxbows, forests and drinking water resources. In this very dynamic area subject to considerable development pressure,  Agence Ter chose to concentrate on the “hollow” spaces lying on the river’s edge between the towns that risk being overwhelmed by an urbanisation that ignores their potential. The challenge inherent in this approach was to give these areas real value through the application of a programme recreating links between the river and the plateau and developing continuities along the River Seine. This was achieved by organising the towns around a shared project.

These landscaped entities, called “intervals”, are located between the towns and extend from the alluvial plain to the edges of the plateau and are programmed to develop on sites with a high added value. The “intervals” reverse the expected focus of attention as the aim is to work on town outskirts and develop them as qualitative urban horizons.

TOULOUSE / The Grand Parc Garonne

TOULOUSE / The Grand Parc Garonne

The recently-formed urban community of Greater Toulouse (CUGT), a driver for large-scale urban projects, chose Agence Ter and its team in 2010 to develop a masterplan for the Garonne and its canals, the future north-south artery that Toulouse currently lacks.

After observing the absence of an urban park or major natural park in the Toulouse agglomeration, Agence Ter proposed the creation of the Grand Parc Garonne. This major fluvial and natural artery, whose potential has so far been little exploited, is the ideal vector for the creation of a large federating and unifying park on the scale of the entire agglomeration.  By giving a central role to the Garonne and its landscapes in the enhancement of the quality of local life, the project reclaims a neglected part of Toulouse’s identity.

Three structuring principles have been developed to design the Grand Parc Garonne masterplan. The first is to strengthen the landscape and environmental context to capitalize on little-known but real assets. The second aims to even out inequalities using sustainable transportation networks. This means facilitating access to the park and removing discontinuities along the entire length of the park. It is embodied by the creation of the “Via Garona”, a pedestrian and cycling artery 32 kilometers in length, itself served by a diversified secondary network (paths, sports circuits, navigation courses…). Agence Ter decided to emphasize the entrance to the park through the “Garonne Gates”, which play the role of multimodal platforms offering services.  The third principle aims to develop attractions along the entire length of the river to provide cultural and activity areas as a complement to Greater Toulouse’s cultural offering.

These three structuring principles emphasize that the Garonne is not simply a green strip across the city but rather a major urban park that stretches over 3,000 ha from north to south. This great park, far from being uniform, will see its diversity reinforced, unlike other major historical parks that offer a single aesthetic approach (Central Park, Bois de Vincennes…). It comprises varied landscapes and constitutes a national- and European-scale migration corridor that must be fostered. The different landscape sequences are embellished through the creation of several successive “parks”.

Half-wild, half-tamed, the landscape of the fluvial natural park extends over 2,200 ha and is structured around outdoor leisure activities. The Garonne and its “Grand Parc” will thus allow the population of the 37 towns of Greater Toulouse to discover and understand them in all their continuity and diversity.

ILE DE FRANCE / Grand Paris – Towards a sustainable metropolis

ILE DE FRANCE / Grand Paris – Towards a sustainable metropolis

An international consultation –  « Le Grand Pari(s) de l’agglomération parisienne » (the big bet of the Parisian agglomeration) was organized by the state and its communities in 2008 – 2009. It questioned the functioning of the metropolis on the regional scale of Île-de-France and continued to trace guidelines, to define a canvas and to sketch scenarios for the post-Kyoto era. The current context and realizations change the situation and demand a renewed debate where new perspectives can be laid out.

Our study was firstly based on the potential of densification and urbanization of the available lands at the edges of the water, rail or road infrastructures and within the commercial development zones, and later on experimentation with an urban strategy for collective housing programs.

Thinking “big” is needed to address the issue of brownfields, especially in relation to the territory. These leftover spaces are redefining new landscapes and are offering new potential for activities as well as for biodiversity. The small and medium sized brownfields are reinforcing the connotations of hard surfaces in the city and often bring a negative image. At this scale, the landscape transformation is inspired by existing activities: pocket gardens around public transport hubs and in the proximity of educational facilities. These spaces differ according to their users: youngsters, people on the road, inhabitants.

HAMBURG / Urban littoral

HAMBURG / Urban littoral

As a part of an IBA-workshop Agence Ter was tasked with the formulation of visionary ideas for the evolution of the tidal Elbe’s coastal line in conjunction with large-scale planning strategies for the development of Hamburg.
Historical maps show the tidal landscape’s qualities: the formation of constantly shifting, adjacent and horizontal cultural layers. The tidal Elbe’s zone of influence slowly shrinking over time, while the impact of agricultural landscapes and cities grew. Today people live protected by dams lacking awareness of the dynamic and sculptural forces of water. A new understanding of reopening and expanding the tidal landscape will continue the history of an evolving landscape and living environment.
The old Süderelbe (southern Elbe) in Hamburg has not been part of the Elbe’s tidal current for almost 50 years. All elementary elements of the tidal landscape concept can be found here. As a laboratory, it presents a small-scale learning opportunity for the entire estuary. All necessary means of composition for the region are proposed by the cultural landscape itself: aligning and shifting as the main principal, the locating and changing of existing lines and layers as an instrument for design.