Volumes under slab
Contracting authority and investor: Paris La Défense
Architect (representative) : Baukunst
Fluid Technology & Economy : Setec
Programming: Urban Attitudes
Urbanism : AWP
Design & acoustics : Studio DAP
Lighting designer: Licht Kunst Licht
Surface : 20 000 m²
Location : Axe de La Défense / Esplanade (La Défense)
Delivery of the pilot project: 2022
Historically, the slab of Paris La Défense was designed to separate the functions intended for users of the district from those of a technical or logistical nature. Thus, several tens of thousands of m² of underground space are unused, representing :
- 350 m long,
- 13 to 70 m wide,
- 110 000 m3,
- variable heights between 2.5 and 12 m.
The 4 spaces concerned:
The Cathedral: 5,000 sq.m. / Height Under Ceiling (HSP): 6 m to 11 m
L'Atelier Moretti : 2 240 sq.m. / HSP : 4 m to 12 m
The FNAC: 4,480 sq.m. / HSP: 2.5 m to 10 m
Les Bassins: 4,600 sq.m. / HSP: 7 m
Paris La Défense has therefore decided to launch a competitive dialogue of international architects to imagine what will become of the 20,000 sq.m. located under the esplanade, including the emblematic "Cathedral" space of more than 5,000 sq.m., with the aim of creating new living spaces that are unique on the scale of the Paris Region. The proposal by the Belgian architectural firm Baukunst was selected in March 2020. It is being developed gradually, both in time and space. Although the project was thought out in a global manner, the complexity of the infrastructures means that it is necessary to proceed step by step. Thus, a first phase, the pilot project, will concern the enhancement of the Atelier Moretti and part of the Cathedral, with the objective of delivery by the end of 2021. This pilot project will prefigure the rest, with the development of the other volumes at a later date.
Continuity and porosity, the two "Ariadne's sons" of the project
In order to develop the basis for a programming in permanent movement, the Baukunst agency follows two complementary axes:
- the creation of a continuity between the different spaces that are today compartmentalized,
- optimization of the existing ≪ porosity ≫ between the slab and the lower levels.
Volumes under slab - Residual volumes project © Baukunst
Two major achievements of the pilot project are necessary to make these principles a reality:
- a public promenade evoking the passages of Paris. As the backbone of the project, this walkway will make it possible to distribute the successive volumes and reach the Place Basse,
- a monumental ring-shaped footbridge ≪ floating ≫ above the Statue Square. Main entrance to the volumes, it will be accompanied by a qualitative landscape treatment. Interior gardens and biotopes will be linked to the green spaces of the slab by hoppers bringing in natural light in the image of a patio. An oculus will allow the pedestrians of the Esplanade to observe the activity of the spaces below, and in particular to offer a view of Le Monstre, the work of the artist Raymond Moretti.
Volumes under slab - Ring © Baukunst
The interventions will aim to decompartmentalize spaces and maximize possible porosities, in the medium and long term, with other existing infrastructures such as Cœur Transport, the Parking Centre Grande Arche or the Voie des Sculpteurs. This vision represents a tremendous opportunity for large-scale deployment of the project, making it possible to create several access points and to attract different stakeholders.
The project will also meet the challenges of the city of tomorrow in terms of urban ecology, since it is based on the reuse of existing and immovable infrastructures. The limitation of the number of emergences, the vegetal articulations with the surface and the minimal interventions within the volumes will facilitate the occupation of the future concessionaires who will be able to develop a complete programming thanks to a phasing studied so as not to freeze anything.
A project with a triple colouring of uses: arts, events, and sports
The originality of the Baukunst agency's project is to reveal the potential of these forgotten spaces while at the same time making it possible to always reinvent them. This explains why the programming of the volumes is not set in stone, even if perspectives are emerging.
A unique vestige of the life in the basements of La Défense in the second half of the 20th century, Le Monstre, a work by Raymond Moretti housed in his studio, foreshadowed the development of the residual volumes. The artistic dimension, which appears to be a major axis for the staging of the premises in line with its history, allows one or more offbeat views to be given to it and to recall its remarkable and fascinating identity. A great place of event and artistic expression will allow Raymond Moretti's work to be preserved and made visible to all.
Mixed and dedicated to all users of the site, the project will eventually also open up to leisure activities, with quality catering and wellness facilities, as well as to events and sports with indoor facilities.
Volumes under slab - View from Espace Moretti to Atrium © Baukunst
Finally, the overall composition will result in new urban atmospheres, both accessible and alternative. The volumes will take the form of an astonishing architectural promenade, punctuated by plays of light and shade and unusual artistic and event experiences. Through these volumes, Paris La Défense will inaugurate a new perception of the district where one can work, but also live and go out, including evenings and weekends.
Zoom on the pilot project
More than a simple prefiguration, the pilot project is a strong act that aims to create a momentum of appropriation of the place by all the inhabitants and users of Paris La Défense and will be the starting point for a bold, experimental, event-driven and evolving program, in line with their expectations. It concerns the following volumes: the Moretti workshop and part of the Cathedral.
The interior life of the volumes will be marked by the Ring, the Agam pavilion and the technical emergences of the project, giving a new dimension to the composite landscape of the slab. A walk will meander from one site to the other, giving access to the impressive volumes of the Cathedral and the Moretti Workshop where the Monster seems to be waiting for its visitors.
- With the garden it dominates, the Ring is both the signal for the project and the main access to the "forgotten spaces" of Paris La Défense. It will combine a panoramic site, the animation of life on the surface, the arrival of natural light in the Cathedral and access for people. From this weightless belvedere, whose impressive size will be on the scale of the interior volumes, pedestrians will take an elevator, a monumental staircase and a double escalator. Hanging plants will accompany their descent, revealing the scale of the volumes.
Volumes under slab - La Traverse 2020 © Baukunst
Punctuated with landscaped rooms in contact with the surface, the underground walkway will meander through the heart of the infrastructure to a temporary staircase. Prefiguration of a more complete walk between Place de la Statue and Cœur Transport, it will allow, from the pilot phase, to discover the memory and spirit of the place.
Visible from the promenade and accessible by an emergence, the Monster's vault and the Workshop will reveal the imagination of a neighbourhood that is rediscovering itself. Their role will be particularly important in the prefiguration phase to guide the programming of future dealers.
Volumes under slab - Cathedral 2020 © Baukunst
Illumination, the Cathedral can also be admired from the promenade. Initially accessible to a limited number of people, the Cathedral will lend itself to temporary artistic experiences with a view to future developments.
The Agam Pavilion will echo the fountain and the green spaces of the slab. This building will have a technical function. Its upper part may be surmounted by an information screen or an artistic device illustrating the activities of the residual volumes.
Phasing of the pilot project
The technical, functional, legal or financial architectural actions will be carried out step by step, always preserving wide possibilities of evolution.
- By the end of 2021, beginning of 2022: development of spaces to make them accessible and "usable". Initially limited to the Atelier and part of the Cathedral, the interventions linked to uses and programming will be progressive.
- The development of the other volumes and the development of future activities will be done in the longer term.
Financing of the project