The reopening of the site of the Seine Paper Mills is a historic event for Nanterre, due to its size – a plot of over 17 hectares with a single tenant – its place in the memory of the town, its unique location on the banks of the river, the quality of access offered, and its proximity to one of the loveliest parks developed on the banks of the Seine in the last few years. From all points of view, the site is a rare resource.
The River Seine has been, successively, a magnet for industrial activity and a logistical hub, then later a witness to the deindistrialisation of the towns and suburbs of the Greater Paris. Now, thanks to the quality of its landscapes, its identity, its leisure facilities, and its reservoir of biodiversity, the river is considered a value “in itself”.
It is a question here of revealing this potential via a project which derives its qualities precisely from its location in an exceptional site – a site of memory. It is vital that the opening of this enclave is used as an opportunity to create a new “address”, a place of convergence capable of perpetuating the different histories informing the site.
A history of work in all its forms
In the 1950s, the Seine Paper Mill employed up to 1,500 people on site. While there is now no economic necessity for a “heavy” industrial complex a mere stone’s throw away from Europe’s leading business district, there is scope for creating a site that perpetuates this history of work by adapting it to current needs and exploiting its manifold aspects. These include metropolitan decision-making functions articulated around an ambitious tertiary campus focused on innovation; premises hosting activities at various scales fully open to a fabric of productive and/or creative SMEs; commercial functions; and, lastly, logistical functions, since access to the river and rail services presents a rare opportunity that should not go to waste.
A landscape history
To relocate to this gentle slope leading to the Seine, with its breath-taking views of the embankments and the Ile Fleurie, is to imagine the continuation of a story whose first episode was written with the Chemin de l’Ile Park, the towpath, and the first industrial encounters with the French capital’s river. A remarkable operation highlighting a landscape of embankments, the project for the park incorporates both the waterway and the issue of sustainable energy within its very heart. The concept underpinning the project focuses on the park, linking its various features and proposing a visual extension without creating a new enclosed space recalling the fortress of the Paper Mill.
Revealing the heritage of an industrial site
The paper mills shaped the urban landscape with their strong architectural imprint and the views they offered of the existing park and the rail tracks. Present but inaccessible, this heritage serves as a significant source of inspiration for the creation of an attractive contemporary site that nevertheless anchors its history in a spirit of place. The proposals described in the following pages are based on an inventory of the qualities of the existing heritage and the congruence of its buildings with planned functions in terms of architectural location and typology.
"Arboretum is a solution more than a place, it is a new approach of daily life, generous, comfortable, model par excellence of innovation and creativity"