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STRATEGIC MASTERPLAN for la défense cbd, paris

LOCATION La Défense, Paris, France CLIENT DEFACTO, Établissement Public de gestion du quartier d’affaires de la Défense



REORGANISE THE ‘PRISM’ OF PUBLIC SPACES TO CREATE A SPECIFIC ‘CLIMATE’ FOR LA DéFENSE In 2012, public institution DEFACTO, selected AWP, Office for Territorial Reconfiguration, (Marc Armengaud, Matthias Armengaud, Alessandra Cianchetta) in partnership with HHF, to provide design and implementation guidance for La Défense, Central Business District. The objective was to conceive a new strategic master plan for the entire (161 hectares) site that addressed issues of public space—green space, urban infrastructure, circulation, transportation and site evolution— specifically as they relate to the 30 hectare slab.

Architects AWP Marc Armengaud, Matthias Armengaud, Alessandra Cianchetta (Partners) Laureline Guilpain ; Charles Bouscasse, Denis Brochard, Bérénice Gentil, Amine Ibnolmobarak, Joseph Jabbour, Clara Lamerre, Miguel La Parra Knapman, Noel Manzano, Maya Nemeta, David Perez, Chloé Raillard (Project Team) + HHF Simon Frommenwiler, Simon Hartmann, Tilo Herlach (Partners) Pierre Escobar (Project team) ENGINEERS + LEA (Lighting) + GINGER (Engineering, QS) + JONCTION (Logistics engineering) + AFP Conseil (security) NET SURFACE 160 ha COMPETITION - DELIVERY 2011 to 2012-2014 IMAGES © AWP-HHF, Anna Positano

Do public spaces have to wait for new towers to change ?

Where could I park my bike ? Where are we ?

Where could I eat quickly and quietly ?

These green spaces are poorly maintained ...

above below Is this a public space ?

Are we inside a building ?

Where is that stair going to ?

why a strategic masterplan on la defense cbd ? THE CHALLENGE OF THE SLAB The project at La Défense is most strongly defined by its programmatic and spatial complexity. This is especially evident in the multi-leveled nature of circulation, infrastructure, and occupiable space. What appears on the surface as just a slab, is in actuality, just a small part of a larger system. The slab, functioning as a hybrid ground, serves at once as the pedestrian walkway, a roof to 6 stories of underground infrastructure, and a wall to surrounding streets all the while floating above a transportation hub. In this way, it epitomizes the relationship between landscape, architecture, and infrastructure. In response, a set of guidelines proposed by AWP and HHF re-imagines the slab as a key connector in the site instead of a barrier, maximizes efficient use of the space in, on, and around the slab, and develops a holistic vision for a new cultural and programmatic culture on the site. The new plan strategically links Paris to the CDB, strengthens connections to the surrounding neighborhood, and integrates the underground transportation. The guidelines create a framework under which the CBD can build new towers, remodel extant commercial properties, design spaces for exercise and cultural events, install a network of green and open spaces, expand infrastructure and transportation, and evolve planning structures over the next 20 years. This plan also envisions the long-term evolution of the site and identifies possibilities to extended infrastructure to adjacent neighborhoods. Guiding principles for design include: (1) redefining the ground (through interventions on the slab), (2) re-establishing the grand axis, (3) inhabiting in-between spaces, (4) allowing for a natural invasion, and (5) incorporating shared spaces.

EXPLORING THE UNDERGROUND Beneath La Défense lay several train and metro lines (metro line 1, RER A), a highway (A14 route), and as well as a large number of parking, but there is little character to these spaces. The plaza is envisioned as the central hub of the project, which connects people to all aspects of their life at La Défense: interface to parking, link to work, access to the stadium, cinema or shopping centre. Multi-leveled systems pose a number of serious challenges and opportunities for design. On the one hand semi-submerged roadways contribute to a safe and pedestrian-oriented central plaza, yet permeability between levels is often weak. In order to formulate the relationship between vertical and horizontal territories, a new design strategy is proposed. The surface is cut through, subterranean parts are day-lighted, visual connection is established, and circulation systems are added. The vision is that in the future, the underground can function as more than a transition route to other destinations, but rather become a destination in itself, a meeting place, and a place for programmed activities. Thus, this axis is the medium to penetrate the greater richness of the site and, in this way La Défense can serve as a model for exploiting the full potential of the underground. In response to this challenging condition of the site, it was necessary to develop the theme of “depth” in a rather literal sense: creating places for living within the areas now used for parking. Through site analysis and spatial reconfiguring, were able to re-find 100,000 square meters of underused spaces in between buildings and between level changes that have great potential to link important locations. As part of the intervention’s first goals, the potential value of the underground network at La Défense is developed to a maximum extent particularly as it serves as the interface between subterranean parking, metro lines, and the elevated walkway that links office buildings.

towards a climate

As we conceived of the new character of the site, we established a critical relationship between the visible and invisible components: above ground and underground, building and infrastructure. Most importantly, we aim to develop a new “climate” on the site. While invisible to the eyes, experiential quality to the site was central; we wanted to create a space that felt safe, comfortable, lively, and ever accommodating to the needs of its users. Thus the climate will be the defining memory of La Défense, an innovative space full of contrasts that is infinitely more hospitable than the immense, stark landscape of the current site. We were also looking at depth on the site so as to anchor the buildings and to help overcome the current sense of it being an illogical pile of disjointed buildings. If the navigation is strong enough, the museum, the hybrid landscapes and the event spaces can extend underground and this new climate can permeate between layers and link many places. A developing new nighttime identity for the site is also of primary concern to the success of the future of the site. La Défense is strongly contrasted busy and calm periods (morning/lunch/leaving the office, day/night, working week/ weekend, seasons…). Presently, night transforms the space under the plaza (in a negative sense, couched in the shadows of the parking garages) and ends in the towers (as corporate sculpture). By changing the nocturnal

identity of public spaces at La Défense, we can alter the experience of the site from a series of spatial constraints to an urbanism of temporal opportunities. The question of light, and therefore of a nocturnal plan, is particularly important to developing this alternative dimension of the site. As part of the complete proposal, the firm developed a way to think of the night as a profound untapped space, which can be enhanced by a lighting system for a 24-hour, global population. Thus, the plan calls for a more human, sensitive and artistic approach to the night, an overarching system of artificial lighting, choreographing movement through the site, and temporal flexibility. As new uses integrate into La Défense, there will be logistical concerns adjustments to accommodate more nighttime visitors: new infrastructure like a stadium, parking garages, attention to lighting and wayfinding devices, and art installations.

4 strategies for a climate redefine the ground re-grand axis

1. re-invent mobility/redefine the ground. Entryways, thresholds, and circulation routes between La Défense and the peripheral neighborhoods were all addressed as crucial components to future success of the project. The proposed network of paths and open spaces function as the connective tissue between currently disjointed buildings, levels, and areas. Improving navigation in/ under/around the slab is central to the master plan, as well as to the public’s interaction with the greater La Défense-area. 2. re-establish the grand axis. The Parisian grand axis is maintained, but it is mutable in response to existing conditions. The networks of greenspaces

around this new axis are added to, updated, and reimagined; they provide the area with new character, programmatic potential and experiential continuity. The new network of promenades, planted routes, a system of way finding devices, and improved entryways stretch outward from a central spine and offer direct access to the surrounding neighborhood and other peripheral sites. The central axis is envisioned as a rich “oasis” of nature and urban identity, which fuses architecture, landscape, art, and community. 3. inhabit in-between spaces. An integrated system of infrastructure will increase access to the site and ultimately improve navigation within the

re-inhabit the domain

site. Attention to a variety of landscape conditions creates interim settings, each interesting in their own right, which give form, focus, and character to different parts of the site. Simultaneously, a system of integrated design strategies and aesthetic vocabulary retains a sense of coherence and integrated whole. Hard and softscape paths, street furniture and wayfinding devices were also proposed particularly at in-between spaces to achieve these goals. Through a series of analyses aimed at exploring under-utilized spaces on the site, we discovered 100,000 square meters that had the potential to be used for program, circulation, or landscape. 4. allow for a natural invasion. The design

re invasion


proposal maintains that landscape should both adapt to the context of the plaza and take on a more radical form, so that it helps define a new character. The landscape network aims to engage people throughout the site. We at once respect the existing infrastructure and site conditions while employing landscape strategies as a way to occupy and engage the site. A hybrid of landscape interventions introduces new landscape typologies and meets a wide variety of user needs. The proposal includes hardscape areas that capture vistas and facilitate easy movement through the site, a plaza for largescale gatherings, lawns and fields for recreation and sport, and quiet gardens for sanctuary.

how the strategic masterplan ? PROJECT PHASES The first phase of the project includes analysis and a site diagnostic evaluation. The diagnostic phase is comprised of analysis that resulted in a series of data maps. In the case of plan guide public areas of La Défense, this phase was essential for the understanding of the site. The first task of the study was to create a system of representation, to compile an atlas of public spaces, and gather unpublished data owned by different actors on the site. A series of walking workshops were conceived of as a new way to generate knowledge from the site`s operational actors: Defacto, employees and residents, and other visitors to achieve a sensitive experiential mapping of the visit. These steps helped us the read the site and break it down into programmatic typologies and a set of targeted interventions. After the diagnostic phase, a general program was established based on our five principles. The five principles set out in the order of importance, and are grouped under the title «Towards a climate.» This phase was essential to the understanding of the site and also for producing 10 themed books which outline the different layers of public space of La Défense. These strategies also helped to structure proposals and formulate a strategy for implementation. The second phase focuses on infrastructure, there will be profound changes to the character of the neighborhood, driven by a stronger engagement with public space. Wayfinding will be improved, so that one can take pleasure in walking and driving around La Défense, as one would in the centre of Paris. The ring road will mutate into an urban boulevard; pavements and walkways will be renovated and connections to nearby Puteaux, Courbevoie and Nanterre will be improved. As a result, to La Défense serve as a critical link in a larger network of streetscape interventions from one bend of the Seine to the next and between Paris and its surrounding hinterlands. Defacto has already begun important work to simplify and improve access for road users and pedestrians, upgrade car parking, install a new signaling system on the plaza, a new lighting plan and unify wayfinding, street fittings and advertising signs.

a global plan below and above

sectors and intervention perimeters

grand axis

temporality of the intervention perimeters


1 to 5 years

technical guidelines for each perimeter + programmatic

saisons area

corolles, reflets, iris area

alsace vosges area coupole regnault area


faubourg de l’arche area

valmy area

degrĂŠs area

boieldieu area

villon area

michelet area


5 to 10 years

grammatic costs

programmatic perimeters

programmatic axonometries

technical guidelines

programmatic costs

10 to 20 years

what future for la defense ?


exhibition / la défense 2020 : a new vision for public spaces / from june 24th to august 23rd 2013 NEWS: AN EXHIBIT ON THE VISION AND PROPOSED STRATEGY OF THE PROJECT IS CURRENTLY ON DISPLAY AT LA DÉFENSE. UNTIL THE END OF AUGUST Inaugurated on June the 24th, the exhibition «La Défense 2020 : a new vision for public spaces» can be seen on le Parvis of la Defense this summer. The exhibition is composed of 4 modules explaining the 4 strategies, organised along a principal axis representing the Grand Axis. This event is the opportunity to let the public know about the orientation of the strategic masterplan and to translate Defacto ambitions concerning the public spaces of la Defense. Plans and images are shown to the public for the first time.

Photo credit : Gregori Civera

office for territorial reconfiguration PRACTICE PROFILE AWP (Marc Armengaud, Matthias Armengaud, Alessandra Cianchetta) AWP is an award winning interdisciplinary office for territorial reconfiguration and design. It is based in Paris and Basel (AWP-HHF) and develops projects internationally working on a wide variety of programmes : architecture, landscape design, strategic planning, urbanism ranging from major large scale public projects to temporary installations both in France and internationally. The practice was awarded the French Ministry of Culture’s Prize for Best Young Architects in 2006, and the French Ministry of Transport, Housing and Ecology’s PJU urban planning award 2010. AWP is currently working on the strategic masterplan plan for the development of urban space in the La Défense business district, and designing an iconic 800 m long public space just below the Grande Arche de la Défense, as well as a series of follies and buildings (culture & leisure). Relevant projects include: the Lantern pavilion in Sandnes, Norway, nominated for the Mies van der Rohe Award in 2009; the masterplanning of public spaces and mobility for the 230ha Praille-Acacias-Vernets area, Geneva; the construction of the Evry wastewater treatment plant, France; the sculpture park for the LAM - Museum of Modern, Contemporary and Outsider Art of Lille Metropole, France; the redesign of the public realm for Capodichino airport and the Ferro-Gomma Hub multimodal park in Naples, Italy (with RSH-P) and a number of international high profile competitions. Our portfolio of clients includes several European cities, metropolitan and regeneration authorities, cultural institutions and developers. AWP also curates and designs exhibitions for major cultural institutions and regularly writes books and essays. The three partners have exhibited their work, taught and lectured at architectural venues in Paris, London, Milan, Rome, Barcelona, Beijing, Toronto, Belgrade, Tianjin, Winnipeg, Geneva, Copenhagen, Oslo, Trondheim, Tirana, Lausanne, Montréal, New York and many other places.

Fields of Activity Architecture / Master Planning / Design / Landscape Architecture / Public Space / Urban research & Forecasting

PARTNERS PROFILE ALESSANDRA CIANCHETTA Alessandra is a partner at AWP and the Director of AWP-UK. Her portfolio of award-winning designs ranges from major large-scale public projects to temporary installations and mostly focuses on public realm and cultural provision. Among her latest ongoing projects are the design of a 800 m long iconic public space and follies project for the Jardins de l’Arche, below the Grande Arche de la Défense and around the new Arena 92; the masterplan for the development of all urban spaces in the La Défense CBD, Paris and a series of small cultural & leisure buildings and follies in a Park in Poissy (Fr). Other relevant projects include The Lantern pavilion in Sandnes, Norway, nominated for the Mies van der Rohe Award in 2009, the sculpture park for the LAM, Museum of Modern, Contemporary and Outsider Art of Lille Métropole, France, the public realm redesign of Capodichino airport, the Ferro- Gomma Hub multimodal park, both in Naples, Italy (with Rogers Stirk Harbour & partners) and a public square for the high speed station in Florence (with Foster & partners). She has also curated and designed exhibitions for major cultural institutions (such as the GAMC, City of Architecture and Heritage and Pavillon de l’Arsenal, Paris, Fondazione Adriano Olivetti, Rome, COAC, Barcelona, among others) written books and essays (Park Guell, Gustavo Gili, 2002, Alvaro Siza_: Private Houses 1954_–_2004, Skira 2004 and Nightscapes, nocturnal landscapes, Gustavo Gili, 2009) and lectured and exhibited her work worldwide. Invited Professor at Columbia University GSAPP The Shape of Two Cities / New York-Paris Special Programme since 2012, Visiting Professor at the Master «Extraordinary Landscapes», Naba, Milan, Italy, at the Azrieli Visiting Critic at the School of Architecture and Urbanism, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, where she currently directs a theory & design DSA. Alessandra has also been a member of the Newham Design review panel in London since 2007. Awarded the French Ministry of Culture Prize for Best Young Architects in 2006 and the French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainability, Transport and Housing PJU urban planning award 2010, she graduated from the “La Sapienza” Rome, Etsa Madrid and Etsa Barcelona. She later completed advanced studies on criticism and landscape theory at UPC, Barcelona and Ehess, Paris. She worked with José Antonio Martinez Lapeña - Elias Torres in Barcelona and with Franco Zagari in Rome, before founding AWP in Paris in 2003. MARC ARMENGAUD Founding member of AWP, Marc is responsible for the research and experimental projects at the office, being in charge of curatorial work for exhibitions, publications, lectures and strategic studies. He has directed various interdisciplinary studies focusing on new forms of public spaces, temporary communities and nighttime mobility for the French Ministry of Culture and Communication and for the City on the Move Institute, PSA foundation. He is currently directing a prospective strategic study about water networks and territorial policies, “le grand Paris de l’eau”, for the group Suez Environnement aiming to establish a relation between public spaces and “inhabitable” infrastructures. He curated an exhibition night in themetropolis for Paris’ Urban Center, Pavillon de l’Arsenal. Marc regularly writes for the architecture magazine D’Architectures and is the author of several books and essays about architecture and perception issues in urbanism: among others, Nightscapes (GG Barcelona, 2009), L’Estuaire est une region bien intéressante (in Revue 3030, Estuaire Biennale catalogue, 2009), Corps à corps de la perception et du territoire (ENSAPM, 2009), Espaces invisibles (publiques) (Voies Publiques catalogue, Pavillon de l’Arsenal, 2006), Drawing movements in the dark (in : Nat Chard, drawing indeterminate architecture, Springer, 2005). Associate Professor at the Paris Malaquais School of Architecture since 2009, Marc directs project studios and regularly organizes workshops and international seminars. In addition he is often invited to lecture and teach at architecture universities worldwide. Awarded the French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainability, Transport and Housing’s PJU Urban Planning award in 2010, Marc studied philosophy at Paris Sorbonne University (DEA) and is currently working on a PhD in Architecture (University of Paris – Est). MATTHIAS ARMENGAUD Founding member and director of AWP, Matthias is in charge of the practice’s architectural, landscape and urban projects both in France and internationally (Scandinavia, Italy, Switzerland, China, etc), focusing on public spaces, cultural facilities, infrastructures and large-scale masterplanning. He is currently working on a several-year mission for Defacto to develop the masterplan for the development of all urban spaces in the La Défense CBD, and another mission for the state of Geneva concerning the masterplanning of all public spaces and mobility for the 230ha Praille-AcaciasVernets area, in the south of Geneva, as well as for the construction of the Evry wastewater treatment plant and that of cultural facilities in Bois le Roi, France. He collaborates regularly with Dominique Perrault (retail towers, harbours, museum projects) and with ADPI (the architecture department of the Paris Airport company), both in France and internationally. Founder of the Troll” label and responsible for several strategic studies about nighttime mobility for the City on the Move Institute and the municipalities of Rome, Copenhagen, Malmö, Paris, Brussels, Barcelona, Helsinki, Rome, Toronto and Belgrade, he is also founding director of MTMA, and urban trends forecasting agency, and a consultant for future cities for several institutions. Currently associate professor at ENSA Versailles (Fr) and visiting professor (expert) at Fribourg (Switzerland) Engineering and Architecture school, Matthias has been invited to lecture and chair juries at several architecture universities (the EPFL in Lausanne, 2009, the ENSA Versailles, 2008, the “Extraordinary Landscapes” master’s program at Politecnico de Milano, 2006-08, Elisava Barcelona, 2005, Marne-la-Vallée Architecture School, 2003-05, among others). He won first place at the Forum des Jeunes Architects in 2000; the Tony Garnier urban planning prize, awarded by the French Academy of Architecture in 2001; the French Ministry of Culture prize for Best Young Architects in 2006, and the French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainability, Transport and Housing, PJU urban planning award in 2010, Matthias is a graduate from the Versailles School of Architecture, and founded AWP in Paris in 2003.


25, rue du Henry Monnier - 75009 Paris - FRANCE Tel : 33 (0)1 53 20 92 15

Profile for AWP / Alessandra Cianchetta

Paris'CBD La Défense (EN)  

Strategic Masterplan for La Défense

Paris'CBD La Défense (EN)  

Strategic Masterplan for La Défense


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