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"from the beach to the cliffs"

Urban design and housing // Montbeliard, FR // Competition entry, Europan VI // 2001

The multipolar development of Montbeliard has made possible an experiential topography, the higher city of the „petite hollande“ district built in the Sixties facing the medieval city on the other side of the Allan River. The relation between the two districts remains primarily visual, barriers and infrastructure making it almost impossible to cross from one to the other. Our project creates the conditions for a dialogue between the urban entities, whilst clarifying and reinforcing their specificity.
A network of interconnected routes is introduced around two principal axes: the „Corso“ and the „Traverse Urbane“, laid out between the university at the edge of the city and the historic centre. The Corso is a meandering, scenic promenade, the Traverse Urbaine a direct line linking different urban nodes. Between the two routes, new fields of activity are defined, each with a specific programmatic choreography.The Blancheries district on the north bank of the river is interpreted as a beach facing the other bank, the topography of petite hollande as a landscape of cliffs

The project proposes intervention on different scales. At the level of the city as a whole, a reinterpretation of the existing is proposed, a reprogramming of “urban software” allowing, through minimal physical alteration, a transformation of the significance and appropriation of infrastructure and civic spaces right across the city. Surrounding the competition site in the flood plain of the river, a metaphorical superimposition is established between the two banks. The proposition for the housing scheme itself uses the environmental givens of the site, particularly the irregular flooding by the river, as an opportunity for innovation, proposing a multi-layered system of intimate and collective realms. Interpreting the topography of petite hollande as cliff clarifies its geographical identity, impact and role in the urban fabric. The metaphor is reinforced by the construction of promenade buildings on the hillside creating both dramatic views of the other side of the river and connective routes between them.

A beach is an intermediate space between the ground and the sea where various scenarios are played in a successive or simultaneous way. Water plays a decisive role here, both literally and metaphorically.The ground of the Blancheries is conceived as an articulated surface accommodating landscaped topography and buildings housing different activities: trade, cafés, workshops and parking. The ground is an adaptable surface becoming roof or basin depending on contextual requirements.

Oriented so as to link the historical city to the water and create views across the river, this structure allows private housing to take a central role in the restructuring of the urban fabric.

The Pier Housing is a dense network of narrow plan terraces linked by walkways. Each residence has a private garden running through the plan, functioning as windows in the buildings, perforating their density, providing light and framing views. The flats are organised around a linear, modular, structural core, housing storage, and services, which makes it possible for inhabitants to modify the flats according to their individual and changing needs.

Organisers: Europan // Collaborators: Florian Köhl, Anna von Gwinner // Units: 150