An international design competition to decide who would enhance an urban district in Charenton-Bercy, in Eastern Paris has been held, and the winner has been announced to be the proficient Chicago-based practice, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), one of the largest and most influential architecture, interior design, engineering, and urban planning firms in the world. The team has proposed a highly connected urban landscape design which incorporates a 180-meter energy efficient tower and a contemporary rotunda that appears to be a virtual reality hub. SOM will work closely with a group of urbanists, landscape designers and community think tanks.
The selected area used to be an industrial zone, constrained by high-speed rail tracks, motorways, and the River Seine. SOM strategy envisions a vibrant mixed-use neighborhood forming a gateway to Eastern Paris. This region will have a wide variety of living options, from shopping to leisure centers as well as a new primary school, which is a part of SOM’s aim to create one of the very first urban districts with WELL Community Standard accreditation.
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In regards to sustainability, this project will include greywater recycling, rainwater harvesting and a smart electricity grid. Around one-third of the site is reserved for green space, including a suspended ‘garden bridge’ over existing train tracks. The developer has committed to planting one tree on the site per residential unit, which at the moment stands at 1000.
“In scripting the overall masterplan, we saw our role as bringing a fresh perspective from an international point of view, refined in close collaboration with our local team to ensure a sensitive integration within the existing community” – Daniel Ringelstein, Director, SOM.
The 180-meter tower will be placed at the heart of the 360,000 square meter masterplan. The tower will be comprised of a residential, retail and hotel space. The group’s agenda is to feature 5000 sqm of interior green space and a tower that creates a new mode of living in the capital of France. Loft-style apartments fronting onto suspended gardens will fulfil that purpose. This massive tower will also have a ground floor with a new plaza destined for public interaction, on a more personal level.
In dialogue with the residential tower, a circular timber frame building will form the center of a new digital hub for Eastern Paris. In response to its 360-degree context, the rotunda is raised on two sides to form a public courtyard with views towards the River Seine, whilst an interactive façade alludes to the virtual reality world within.