The Canal du Nivernais, a magnificent hydraulic machine fashioned by man over time, occupies a strategic position in the heart of the Nièvre department. Originally built to supply Paris with firewood, in the course of its history the canal developed a unique landscape that is deeply entrenched in the Nivernais countryside. Its isolation has preserved it and created around it an original world where today time seems to have stood still.
There is huge potential for discovery and for opening up the canal to the broader landscape and its territory, but it is also fragile. The canal has an important and original heritage that should be preserved and promoted while respecting the secret balance of the setting. The studied section corresponds to the canal’s «showcase»: at this level, the canal crosses the water’s summit reach by which the Loire section connects to the Seine section. This geographic link is formed by the famous La Collancelle vaults and the ladder of Sardy locks, a genuine water elevator.
To open up the Sardy valley, the project emphasises strategic viewpoints that help understand the landscape, it creates connection points between the Canal and the road network, and it designs clear signage. The three entry points giving access to the canal become three doors directing the flow of pedestrians, cyclists and river traffic throughout the compactness of the site. Each one has its own identity.
The analysis identifies eight sequences that reveal the moods, smells, sounds and echoes that stir the walker’s imagination, immersing him or her in a mysterious and timeless world.
These sequences are related to a sensitive approach to the site taking several factors into account: the geomorphology of the canal valley, nature and land use, the arrival of events (such as the presence of quarries or water inlets), remarkable views and more.