Parc de la Villette
Parc de la Villette
In 1982, the competition concerning Paris’s Parc de la Villette forced landscape architects all over the world to examine themselves critically. The brief for the competition was intricate and comprehensive: ‘We calculated until we fainted.’ Simultaneously, plans for the restructuring of an urban district, for a park for neighbourhood residents, for a proof garden with international allure, for a park for active use with dozens of functions, and for theme gardens, were requested. In short: a flexible park in which expression was to be given to the multiform character, not only of present-day society but of that of future generations – and with a high degree of cohesion among the different components, as well as between these and the surrounding city. La Villette was called a park but was in reality a social-programmatic task with urban design dimensions.
Christa van Santen, Henk Boer
‘A park is not only a list of attractions but above all a place that gives us a feeling of freedom, where, besides small intimate spots, there are large, expansive spaces, where you can stare at the clouds while lying on the grass.’ Spatially, this translated into a clear framework, based both on functional considerations and on the existing landscape substrate, but with a more informal and variegated set of functions. Viewed in this manner, the park was not the result of ‘a curious incident in the city’, but was itself a work of urban architecture, closely connected to the fabric of streets, canals and squares that surround it. It was not only the case that the park was physically linked to the city, but its design repertoire was also linked to that of the great French park tradition: there was an important role here for axis effects and perspective. The framework consisted of an axial cross and a high wall, which surrounded the entire terrain and repelled the traffic noise emanating from the Route périphérique. A stroll over this rampart would offer continuously changing prospects of the park, as well as an opportunity to view the most important elements, such as the glasshouses and the pyramid, from above. The designers concentrated the park’s components in programmatically clustered zones, parallel to the axes, so that room was left for open meadows and water gardens.