LYON CONFLUENCE. ÎLOT A3
Îlot A3: pilot project for the urban vision of Lyon Confluence 2. Nine buildings by six architects have been planned and built in close cooperation with the city, the developer, and the contractor.
URBAN PLANNING AND ARCHITECTURE
Lyon Confluence 2
The lively, compact city center on the peninsula between the Rhône and Sâone rivers is expanding southwards into the area that ends in the Confluence, where the two rivers converge. Located to the east of Cours Charlemagne, the main axis that traverses the entire peninsula from north to south, the area of Lyon Confluence 2 extends to the shoreline of the Rhône and primarily comprises the terrain of what was once a wholesale market. The master plan for Lyon Confluence 2 is the result of an invited competition, which Herzog & de Meuron won in 2009 in cooperation with Michel Desvigne.
Efficient Administration, Personal Commitment
As in other cities in France, an urban development agency (Société Publique Locale SPL), over which the mayor presides, was founded in 2003 for the development of Lyon Confluence 1+2. Under competent management, the SPL can plan, make decisions, and carry them out efficiently. The SPL was largely responsible for successfully developing the new neighborhood in a comparatively short period of time. Gérard Collomb, Lyon’s mayor from 2001 to 2017, managed the development of Lyon Confluence with great presence of mind. His aim was not to rule autocratically; his greatest priorities were commitment, devotion, and personal accountability. This included exemplary involvement of the public in the process (concertation).
The Tasks of the Urbanists
The urban plan (Plan Local d’Urbanisme, PLU) was subsequently developed by the authors of the master plan in cooperation with the SPL and went into effect in 2012. Thereafter, Herzog & de Meuron and Michel Desvigne assumed the role of consultants to the client (Assistance au Maître d’Ouvrage, AMO). As soon as developers expressed interest in an Îlot or the city itself wanted to take action, a detailed Cahiers des Charges was put together to serve as the basis for competitions or the project development of specific Îlots. Similar documents were created for the infrastructure of the new quarter (tram lines, bridges, district heating). Since 2016, Herzog & de Meuron and Michel Desvigne have continued to sit on competition juries and work with the SPL, advising on quality control with respect to the urban, architectural, and landscaping aspects of the various projects.
Selection of Architects
The size of the buildings, their placement, the width of the streets, the distribution of uses as well as the basic principles underlying the design of the buildings and public space are largely defined in the urban plan and the Cahiers des Charges. However, only after the plan is translated into architecture does public space acquire its physical shape. A model was worked out for Lyon Confluence 2 to select architects through a combination of direct mandates and competitions. For larger Îlots, a "Chef d’Îlot", an architect with accredited qualifications, is commissioned to design one or several buildings. In this position, he is responsible for suggesting additional architects and, after they have been selected, to coordinate them and control the quality and coherence of "his" Îlot throughout all phases of planning and construction. This model enables established international architects to plan and build along with local architects from Lyon and promising newcomers. The best “still-no-names” are identified, architects whose first works have attracted attention at home or abroad. They are highly motivated by having been contacted directly by a renowned architect to join in close collaboration. At the same time, thanks to his experience and knowledge of processes, the "Chef d’Îlot" is entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring the quality of the architecture, in reference not only to his own buildings but also to those of his colleagues. Architectural competitions are launched, as usual, for public facilities, single buildings, or smaller Îlots.
Pilot Project Îlot A3 and Team
Nine buildings were planned and built by six architects under the guidance of Herzog & de Meuron. The basic principles of the master plan for Lyon Confluence 2 have been carried out for the first time: activation of the streetscape, a mix of uses, old and new side by side, interplay of differently scaled buildings, visual permeability, a system of public paths, coherence of public space and greenery, and unity within diversity, or e pluribus unum. The SPL and developer designated Herzog & de Meuron as "Chef d’Îlot" and Michel Desvigne as landscape architect for the pilot project. In a competition held to determine the developer, potential investors were required to define quality factors such as the detailed mix of uses, sustainability as regards energy and social fabric, rental and sales prices, and construction budgets for the buildings – all of this, without presenting architectural designs. The French property developer Icade won the competition. In cooperation with the SPL, a number of architects proposed by Herzog & de Meuron for evaluation was narrowed down four: Tatiana Bilbao (Mexico City), Christian Kerez (Zurich), Manuel Herz (Basel), and AFAA (Lyon). In addition to being entrusted with the planning and execution of two buildings, AFAA was responsible for the underground floors of all the buildings and the coordination of the drawings. Didier Dalmas from Lyon won the public competition to remodel the former flower market (Halle aux Fleurs).
Planning and execution of the nine buildings was an exacting process in every respect; it required the commitment and cooperation of all participants for a period of five years. The staff of the various architectural offices made countless trips to Lyon and on occasion to Basel for coordination workshops, planning consultations, and construction site visits with representatives of the city, the client, and the builders. In 2015, full-scale mock-ups of façades for all the buildings were constructed and reviewed on site in order to see how they interrelate. The finished structures testify to this extraordinary commitment and the singular climate of a remarkable collaboration. The buildings show both subtle affinities and exciting contrasts. Îlot A3 vibrantly demonstrates forms of constructive, intense, and enriching cooperation as a multisector, contemporary theme.
Fair-faced concrete on the façades was neither an incontrovertible premise nor a general preference. It came about in the course of planning, exchange, and collaboration. A diversity of architectural expression emerged in the overall view in response to the various uses, the choice of apartment typologies, and the background of the respective makers. The decision to work with a uniform material was reinforced by the fact that the construction company, Léon Grosse, has substantial expertise in working with concrete. Despite the market-price budget and the tight scheduling, the company committed to the necessary research and became an integral part of the design team. The resulting spectrum ranges from small-scale plywood to curved metal formwork, from surface matrices to prefabricated window reveals, from double-skin concrete walls to rammed concrete columns.
Unity within Diversity
The specifications of the development plan go beyond the volume of the buildings. The architectural guidelines aim to achieve unity within diversity. Rather than defining the identity of buildings with grand gestures, distinctive shapes, or loud colors, architects and developers are encouraged to work on interesting housing typologies and architectural detailing. The façades of the differently scaled buildings are to be executed primarily in mineral materials and light in coloring in keeping with the old town of Lyon and especially the frontage along the Rhône. It is, of course, in the nature of rules to have exceptions and these are acceptable in special cases. In Îlot A3, a small building is clad in dark wood; in Îlot B2, a pavilion is made from clay and the school of architecture in Îlot C1 is black.
The Next Chapter of Lyon Confluence 2
Two more buildings of social housing and a central parking garage are already under construction. The next Îlots are in the advanced stages of planning. Ogic as developer with architects Diener & Diener (Basel) and Clément Vergély (Lyon) won a conventional investor/architect competition for Îlot B2, which will complete the Esplanade François Mitterrand. The third Îlot A1/A2 was a competitive bid won by Bouygues as developer with David Chipperfield (London) as "Chef d’Îlot". They brought in Aires Mateus (Lisbon) and Atelier Vera (Lyon) to join the team. Some 30 buildings or almost a third of the entire Lyon Confluence 2 neighborhood are scheduled for completion within the next five years.
Lyon Confluence 2 master plan
The master plan for Lyon Confluence 2 consists of the Quartier du Marché, a mixed urban neighborhood, the Transversale, a boulevard that leads east and west to bridges over the two rivers, and the Champs, a park that leads to the southern tip of Confluence. The neighborhood, for which the Îlot A3 is the prototype, is characterized by a simple street grid, permeable Îlots, considerable density, a mix of uses, and different building typologies, among them repurposed wholesale market structures. The objective is to create vibrant public spaces and a heterogeneous social fabric. The architectural specifications aim for unity within diversity. Because of the central location, only a limited number of parking spaces are provided and buildings must adhere to strict energy regulations.
Typologies and identity
The housing and office typologies in Îlot A3 give rise to the distinctive character and identity of the buildings; their physical side-by-side contributes to the heterogeneous social fabric of the neighborhood. Most of the units are either corner apartments or run the width of the building; one building is characterized by a split-level typology, another, smaller one consists of duplex townhouses above a nursery school. The common courtyard is activated through outside stairs and access decks, terraces, and balconies. Two architects introduce curved architectural elements; two buildings are sculpturally formed by variations in layout; two office buildings feature a flexible layout, transparency, and ample daylight thanks to large-scale glazing – one of them stands out with its outdoor columns.
Vibrant and heterogeneous
The mix of offices and residential buildings around Cour Jardinée has been established, among other things, to fulfill the daylight requirements of apartments, as stipulated by the urban plan. The mix of social housing, subsidized apartments, and condominiums ensures a heterogeneous fabric, for example, by placing them side-by-side along Esplanade François Mitterrand. A large, prestigious office building flanks Cours Charlemagne; a second, smaller one marks the transition between the historical neighborhood of Sainte-Blandine and the Îlot. The former wholesale flower market on Rue Smith has been repurposed as a public gym. Ground-floor uses are cross-financed by revenue from the uses above in order to enliven the streetscape.
The courtyard of Îlot A3 creates a greened continuity in the heart of the new Quartier du Marché. The stringent uniform design is an important identifying feature of the block. The stabilized gravel pavement and stands of tall trees echo the spirit of many public spaces in Lyon. Indigenous species of deciduous trees filter the light of the summer sun and guarantee sunlight in winter. Clearings with benches and tables are inviting spots to stop and stay. Copious growth at the foot of certain trees and three runoff ditches with vegetation along the buildings create zones of great intimacy. They ensure ground-floor privacy and also provide a spacious open area in the middle of the courtyard. Ground floor uses enliven the streetscape.
Lyon is almost a Mediterranean city. The architects of the Îlot incorporate the potential of the warm climate into the social and architectural dimensions of their buildings in different and yet related ways. There are balconies, loggias and terraces as well as access decks and outside stairs. These foster exchange among the residents in the same building and across the courtyard. The distinctive architectural solutions generate identity: they are round, clad in wood, stacked one above the other, or staggered, double-height, set back, or cantilevered. The balconies and stairs also afford a view of the courtyard and the people down below.