Along the Seine, 2.7 km east of the capital, the development of the Masséna district is taking place in context of the Paris Left Bank project, a vast restructuring plan for the thirteenth arrondissement. The site is marked by the presence of the Paris mills, the “Grands Moulins de Paris”, and railroad tracks to be reclaimed and redeveloped.
The purpose of the consultation was to seek urban quality in an area up to then qualified as peripheral, by taking an inventive approach based on the theme of «fabric in the dense city». Proposals for the site plan, volumes, and the breakdown of the blocks and public spaces notably had to allow for the construction of over 1,000 housing units, a university and 3 ha of public gardens.
The team then came up with the principle of the «urban hedgerow» (bocage urbain), an innovative approach that sought to reconcile the requirement for high densities with the creation of a wide variety of spaces. It was then a question of providing landscaping responses based on the concept of C. de Portzamparc’s open block that would introduce a new type of relationship between public and private spaces. This challenges the traditional principle of shared space and favours the interaction of free spaces with different statuses; in particular it enables the street to benefit from the vegetation of private gardens and brings light into the blocks.
Thus the « urban hedgerow» is conceived of as a space of double exposure, going from street to street, through the blocks: «the perceived garden covers both the public space and the private space». Inspired by the gardens of paradise, this urban landscape emphasises the place of plants in the city, in keeping with the desire for nature that characterises our age of widespread and intensive urbanisation. It induces specific choices of plants adapted to the space whose expansion we control (size, shape, nature) and whose textures, smells and tastes we emphasise to the maximum.