Location Niort Agglomeration (FR)
Status Europan 16 · Living Cities
Project team Elena Kasumova, Celia Landry, Liang Qiao & Salomé Wackernagel · Authors |
Juliette Riby, Timofey Volotskiy · Contributors
According to the AclimaTerra 2018 report, “INSEE projections for 2030 indicate +3.5 million inhabitants on the midwestern Atlantic coast. By relying on the emblematic spaces that are the wetlands, the development programmes of the urban and tourist offer must find the right balance between frequentation and openness so as not to jeopardise this resource.” Located on the edge of the wetlands, the French “Green Venice”, Niort is the main gateway to the Poitevin marshes. The challenge is to help urban and regional demographic growth while forming an ecological design process through a toolbox where urban and natural issues become a chain of actions and ideas interwoven in the territory.
In the peripheral context of Niort, the urban, i.e. the ever-increasing need for housing in the metropolis and the tertiary sector seeking to expand near the cities, supplants agricultural activity, its territories and natural areas. On this periphery, we can ask ourselves what new models can be explored, what living urban matter can show a possible future for the city.
The organisation of the territory, but also more deeply the way we supply and feed ourselves, and the alternatives for a sustainable future living in the city, is represented here by the figure of the Tangent as an organic rib connecting a historical axis of Niort and the sites of Chauray and Bessines, in order to develop a processual territorial vision of Niort by 2050.
Small architectures - platforms or amphitheatres made for encounters (AMAP distributions, cultural events...) set up the early stages of the project in precise places of the outskirts foreseen for the implementation of larger-scale urbanistic projects in the future. These introductive architectures are designed and built in rammed raw earth, during participatory workshops involving local actors and the population at different levels of the social and cultural life of the agglomeration.
The initial participatory actions are easy to implement in the early stages of the project, from 2022 onwards, with a minimal budget, in order to make the future scenario visible and plausible, to create an exchange between the centre and the periphery, and to initiate the citizen debate. Through this process, the urban and infrastructural project of the open Tangent planned for the year 2050 is implemented, at first on an ad hoc basis, and then gradually, following a methodology of processual design.
Once activated, the Tangent and the elements along it are the incubators for the development strategy. By 2050, the Tangent is no longer simply an initial founding line but becomes the starting point of a new urban fabric, densifying the Niort Agglomeration while raising awareness of the resources and qualities that already made it up. Chauray (site 2) sees its character as an active and productive basin amplified, its ZAC (Zone d’Acttivité Commerciale - Zone for Comercial Activities) landscape - composed by comercial halls, hangars and office buildings - exploited and directed towards a better connection to the agricultural, ecological, climatic and economic issues of the future (urban greenhouses, co-working spaces, start-up incubators, communautary third-spaces, sawmill, recycling centers, market halls...). On the other side, Bessines is the urban catalyst of the city’s link with the Marais. Thus, is landscape becomes a living area where the new living units are in line with the first rammed earth architectures: these sustainable constructions are partly built on piles, in order to respect the marshland character of the area. The materials used for the new constructions will come, as the process is implemented in the urban planning concept projected for 2050, from the sawmills established on the outskirts of the areas rich in raw materials, and in the future will be sourced from the forests planted in the early stages of the urban plan for the conurbation, in a cycle of gentle management of resources, so as not to exhaust the soil and materials.
The soil of the adobe buildings, made up of a balanced mixture of clay, sand and minerals, will be taken directly from the foundations. The aim is to bind the territory from materials and resources. Furthermore, the introduction of permaculture and aquaponics on the site is made possible by the creation of a network of canals, in continuity with the nearby wetland. The land-use approach opening up to innovative agricultural techniques is directly linked to the surrounding farms/agricultural holdings (cultivation) as well as to the new housing built on the edge of the city (supply). The diversity of plantations on a medium scale allows for soil regeneration and an almost autonomous virtuous cycle, which can then be extended to a larger portion of the territory, in order to create a new productive system necessary for the Anthropocene era, unifying and raising awareness of the existing landscape of the Marais and its climatic dimension.