Le Parc: For a new urban park in Paris La Défense!

Le Parc: For a new urban park in Paris La Défense!

What if tomorrow, Paris La Défense became an exceptional site for walks and activities? What if together we transformed the Esplanade de La Défense into a vast urban park, alive with the rhythm of the seasons and everyone's desires?

That's what Le Parc is all about! Or rather, that is what putting it in a park is all about. It is a promise. That of new places of convivialitý and sharing, that of an improved living and working environment́. It is also a long-term experience where you will be able to metamorphose the esplanade, accompanied by the teams from Paris La Défense. Together, residents, employees, shopkeepers, students... let's give back a place to nature, sport and culture in the city.

Map of the Park

Map of the Park

The Esplanade de La Défense has long been a territory of experimentation and events: temporary planted meadow, shared garden, temporary events, food truck, experiments with urban furniture, art trails, temporary plant works, transformation of the lower square, etc. Added to this are leisure and restaurant-oriented real estate projects such as Oxygen and Table Square, as well as uses initiated by the site's users such as pétanque and picnics. The Park project is inspired by and nourished by this to transform the esplanade, which is still relatively mineral, into an exceptional public space for everyday life, by planting and animating it to transform it into a real urban park of 7 hectares. The latter will extend over 600 metres in length, between the Agam and Takis basins.

Genesis and phasing of the project

A gradual transformation process, Le Parc brings together several projects within the project.

In 2017, the Place Basse was extensively greened, becoming a popular place for the public. This was the first stone of the Le Parc project, initiating the ambition to green the esplanade. In 2019, after a consultation with the inhabitants to define the future uses of the esplanade, this ambition became the project of the Park.

From then on, the choice was made to transform the esplanade in small steps, progressively and in phases, in order to end up with an ambitious project of permanent transformation:

Programmatic objectives of the Park

In addition to the objective of generously planting the esplanade, Paris La Défense is deeply rethinking the historic axis by alternating squares and planted promenades to offer users an improved living or working environment and new recreational or sporting uses. The Park project also aims to counteract heat islands and recreate natural soil in order to participate in the fight against global warming.

The Park has been designed as a responsible project, allowing for ecological management of the site (zero pesticide policy and differentiated management of green spaces), the creation of islands of coolness, greater permeability of the soil and the planting of local plant species.

In detail, the 5 objectives of the project

  1. A "natural" urban park: The Park is above all a work of increased vegetation of the entire Esplanade de La Défense: flower gardens, copses, trees, lawns... Everything is designed to make the esplanade a real urban park where nature has its rightful place.
  2. New continuities and crossings: The project seeks to create links and encourage exchanges between users and between Puteaux, Courbevoie and the various sites in the wider La Défense area. The aim is not only to reorganise and pacify the traffic routes (pedestrians, cyclists, electric scooters, etc.) but also to open up the site to the spaces and streets perpendicular to the Park. Pedestrians, cyclists, electric scooters... The Park will be a place where everyone will have their place and their space. The esplanade will also be open to the surrounding towns and to the various sites in our area.
  3. Modular and convivial squares and spaces: The Park will be made up of a succession of convivial, active or more intimate spaces. These squares and spaces bring together different uses and atmospheres and encourage breaks, meetings and leisure time. They give pride of place to nature, sports and leisure activities, whether through temporary activities, landscaping or specific street furniture, for all users of Paris La Défense.
  4. A living soil : The work on the ground of the Park is an essential component of the project. The space under the slab may in some places be filled in and replaced by a new, more fertile soil, similar to the Green Heart.
  5. A sustainable park: Green the Park will be, but not only! It will be sustainable thanks to an ecological management of the site, the creation of islands of freshness, a greater permeability of the soil, the planting of local plant species and better accessibility for people with reduced mobility...The project wants to be responsible, not only in relation to the environment but also to its audiences.

Phase 1: Green Heart

In 2020, the project to turn the Paris La Défense esplanade into a park has come to fruition! The first phase delivered concerns the "Lower Sequence", located near the Esplanade de La Défense metro station.

These are 1,000 sq.m. of additional green spaces that mark the entrance to the esplanade. This "green heart" is built around a large garden, framed by paths for strolling, lying down and taking a break. Under the lime trees, the two groves of mixed species complete the sequence. They constitute reservoirs of coolness in the summer.

The Park and its Green Heart (c) Paris La Défense - Constance Decorde

The Park and its Green Heart © Paris La Défense - Constance Decorde

The Green Heart consists of a large lawn for planting and cool, misty gardens, with mixed species to vary the atmosphere with the seasons. It offers both places for rest and contemplation and more active spaces for activities.

At the same time, the green spaces under the lime trees at the entrance to the axis, on the Bassin Takis side, have been revitalised. The lighting has also been worked on to provide comfort in the evening, with the addition of candelabras. A new access for people with reduced mobility has been created to facilitate access to the heart of the esplanade.

This Green Heart now makes it possible to regenerate the historical landscape heritage of the axis, promote biodiversity, provide comfort of use and climatic comfort while enriching and protecting the current planted areas. 3,000 bulbs have been planted in the lawn, which will bloom every spring.

Phase 2: New landscapes

After the Green Heart, it was the turn of the upper part of the esplanade to be transformed to continue to roll out the "green carpet". Since mid-2020, the metamorphosis of the La Défense esplanade has continued with the "New Landscapes" phase of the Mise en Parc. With this stage, Paris La Défense is pursuing the dual objective of reinforcing the freshness of the site and diversifying the species of trees present on the esplanade, in the medium and long term.

An air of undergrowth

Les Nouveaux Paysages of the Parc (c) Paris La Défense - Constance Decorde.

Les Nouveaux Paysages of the Parc © Paris La Défense - Constance Decorde.

In the summer of 2020, forest islands with wooden hammocks under the plane trees of the esplanade were installed. Present for more than 30 years on the Paris La Défense slab, the plane trees, whose species is historic in the area, have been installed in fertile soil composed of a rich thickness of topsoil of 150 to 200 cm.

150 young trees of new species, planted at their foot, will explore, among other things, the quality and potential of the soil in place. But above all, it is an opportunity for Paris La Défense to experiment with a new diversity of trees on the territory. The integration of these young trees should make it possible to identify which species are capable of adapting to the very specific conditions of the site, i.e. a dry, chalky soil, characterised by root competition, in an urban environment...

An ephemeral and experimental garden

Plan of the entire ephemeral garden (c) atelier Fois

Plan of the entire ephemeral garden © atelier Fois

In spring 2021, above-ground gardens were added to the decor. With its unusual landscapes for a business district, the central avenue now offers a pleasant walk along the water, which crosses various gardens, themselves connected, via secondary alleys, to the shady flowerbeds laid out under the plane trees.

Place the white centre line to cover the front/back evolution

In concrete terms, 13 above-ground gardens have been created, in elegant wooden planters ranging from 80 to 168 sq.m, with 45 plant species selected as part of this experiment, which is scheduled to last at least three years. Characterised as fresh or dry, they bring together perennial (verbena, etc.) and structural (yucca, etc.) species as well as shrubs. The banks of the 6 water gardens designed (out of the 13 landscape implants) are decorated with plants adapted to the wet environment such as the marsh iris, the aromatic reed or the dwarf water lily.

Place the white centre line to cover the front/back evolution

These gardens, which are classified by theme, are like laboratories, making it possible to follow the adaptation of plants to dry, humid or shady environments. Our objectives? To determine which plants are best adapted to the particular climatic conditions of the district, to optimise irrigation to preserve our water resources and to provide greater comfort for the site's users. Every month, Paris La Défense makes the results public.

The materials used for the planters were chosen for their durability and their ability to be recycled when the installation is dismantled. As this project is a temporary installation, intended to be dismantled once the final work on the Park has begun on this section of the esplanade, it has been designed to be entirely recyclable. The plants will be replanted elsewhere.

On your way to the site, you can also take a look at the educational exhibition installed near the gardens.

Nouveaux Paysages in figures

  • A 960 sq.m. forest island under the plane trees with 150 young trees planted
  • Above-ground gardens covering a total area of 1,600 sq.m., with 13 container gardens ranging from 80 sq.m. to 168 sq.m..
  • In total, more than 2,500 sq.m. of "New Landscapes
  • More than 45 plant species distributed in the planters according to 4 landscape atmospheres: Mediterranean, forest, humid, cultivated
  • 5 months of work between November 2020 and March 2021

Phase 3: The Park by 2026

At the end of 2022, the Park project will gain new momentum. In 2021, Paris La Défense has appointed the project management group responsible for transforming the Esplanade de La Défense into a vast 7-hectare urban park, between the Agam and Takis basins. The team is led by the landscape architect Michel Desvigne.

The group's mission: to imagine a coherent and sustainable development of the public spaces of the esplanade, both on the surface and underneath (networks, drainage, etc.). The development principles, established at the end of the studies carried out in 2021, will have to preserve the original project and draw inspiration from the experiments underway, while taking into account feedback from residents and employees. The gradual start of work is scheduled for the end of 2022.

Work areas for a sustainable transformation

Among the expectations of Paris La Défense, the grouping led by Michel Desvigne Paysage must :

  • preserve the historical heritage of the Axe by respecting and revealing the legacy of Dan Kiley, landscape designer of the esplanade in 1972;
  • strengthen the presence of plants and biodiversity in the heart of the business district;
  • imagine simple, sustainable and economical solutions (reuse of materials for long-term management, conservation of existing vegetation as much as possible, etc.);
  • adopt an eco-responsible management of rainwater; animate the public space with a qualitative and recreational treatment of water;
  • improve the links between Puteaux and Courbevoie, but also between the top and the bottom;
  • improve the comfort of use of the public space (shading, freshness);
  • adapting to new functionalities, particularly soft mobility.

A group of experienced people at the service of the project

A team composed of engineers, architects, landscape architects, ecologists and urban planners, the Michel Desvigne Paysagiste group was chosen for its detailed understanding of the expectations of Paris La Défense. In addition, the group has numerous references in the development of gardens on slabs and emblematic public spaces (including the Boulingrins garden in Monaco, the Otemachi district in Tokyo, the gardens of the Ministry of Culture and the Jussieu campus in Paris, etc.).

The Michel Desvigne Paysagiste (MDP) agency benefits from the experience of its founder, a landscape architect, whose understanding of urban issues earned him the Grand Prix de l'Urbanisme in 2011.

The Arcadis design office brings its skills in terms of structure and drainage.

Urban-Eco Scop, a company specialising in urban ecology, guarantees the ecological relevance of the project.

The Ville Ouverte team, which includes some thirty urban planners, architects, engineers and programmers, is an expert in public consultation and will ensure dialogue with local residents.