What a paradox!
The city of Port-de-Bouc, at the meeting point of the Rhone and the Mediterranean, is suffering from impact of major infrastructures (trains, highways, oil and chemical industries). It create an ambivalent landscape: this territory is today one of the largest industrial areas in Europe, while remaining a privileged place to enjoy the sweetness of the South of France. It’s usual to meet people fishing at the foot of abandoned factories, or swimmers contemplate the incessant ballet of supertankers. The site of La Gafette, where is located the project, is symbol of the evolution of this territory, neglected and polluted; worn for decades by industries that have become obsolete.
At the same time, a “new industry” is emerging, driven by instantaneity and technology. Urban logistic allows to distribute products ordered on the Internet from the other side of the world; and the possibility to create and send home-made objects to anyone from a living room, help the development of micro-companies as fablab or innovative activities … This “21st-century industry”, more sustainable, brings the desired dynamism to influence on urban politics of wastelands rehabilitation.
And at a time when ecological considerations seem more important than ever, the question of the future of these former industrial sites is essential to rethink a more sustainable city. Especially since these issues will arise at much higher scales when huge industries dispersed on the planet will begin their already programmed decline.
Architecture before the city
The project tries to connect these 2 potentials, a site and an activity, so that everyone benefits to the other. Logistic industrials and innovative workers are gathered around a tram-train line (taking over the old railway that served the factories). It creates a microcosm that will engender a new dynamic into a territory that need while offering the generous, flexible and economical spaces that this new active class is looking for.
The project defends the idea that a classical urban intervention (a masterplan leading to a multitude of architectural operations realized in a very short time) cannot find its place in an industrial scale and (for the moment) hard conditions. The challenge here is to bring a “first stone”, a small gesture able to reconnect the site to the territory and engage its future appropriation.
The project must be a signal for this territory, and relies on semaphore’s typology to « enlighten » the City on his future: “Look, there is something happening near the city center! Yes, it’s the old industries that we live again! ” The project thus reverses a difficult context to develop a singular way of making the city: inhabit what is habitable today to prepare the development of the city tomorrow. Architecture BEFORE the city.
Permanent and changes
According to Perret’s thought, architecture is placed at the meeting of Nature and the many changes that Man seeks. Permanent and evolutionary, it anticipates its own mutation and tries to surpass the rhythm of “1 building = 1 time = 1 use” which has so marked the landscape.
The project presents a “double-architecture”, articulating on a tower: a permanent frame, in the form of a “grid to live” in white concrete, minimizing the points of structure to allow a total flexibility of spaces; and habitable modules (set on the Small-Office/Home-Office system), built in a dry process (mainly wood) to easily meet all uses; and largely open to the Mediterranean landscape.
These modules are organized around a vertical street, an extension of the city within the project: indeed, if we cannot use the “original” ground that is too polluted, the idea is to offer an intermediate space that will play both the role of public space and building landing ; but also polyvalent or sportive areas, observatory, amphitheater, … This forms a “shared economy”, between an economically disadvantaged city that will benefit from attractive collective spaces; and workers who will enjoy this extension of their habitat around a meeting place.