Southampton Quay

Le Havre is a major European port located in Upper Normandy at the mouth of the Seine. The city was built at the entrance to the port. Heavily bombed during the Second World War, it was rebuilt by Auguste Perret. The postwar reconstruction, exemplary in its process and in its integration of different building typologies, has since been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The André Malraux Museum of Modern Art was built with Jean Prouvé, and Oscar Niemeyer’s iconic building.

The Southampton quay, in former times the prestigious point of departure for the ship Le France on its journey towards New York, serves as the city\’s maritime facade as well as the entrance for the industrial port. In almost complete disuse for more than twenty years, this vast space extending for about a mile is currently the subject of a transformation project. The objective is to convert it into a public space that links together city and port.

This Southampton quay project is the subject of this workshop.

The focus will be on envisaging the transformation of theses public spaces, of their uses and their spatial composition, but also on the setting up of an ensemble of buildings for the port center. These new buildings and spaces should be understood and approached in connection with the exceptional city neighborhoods adjacent built by Auguste Perret.

The particularity of the workshop is based on the alternation of two points of view: that of the landscape architect Michel Desvigne with that of the architect Inessa Hansch. Through the combination of their varying skills and expertise, the goal is to develop a command over spatial composition, while understanding how certain constructions shape places that inform and orient and animate space.

In Le Havre, mastery over scale is critical. The eyes must continually adapt, moving from the sea horizon to domestic spaces and back. The composition linked traditionally with port facilities and reconstructed cities takes on here a particular and essential quality: urban space replaces that of industry. Moreover, this project is emblematic of the vast changes taking place in metropolitan centers throughout the world. There are indeed numerous industrial and maritime spaces, situated on the banks of rivers or facing the sea, which today are undergoing, or have already undergone, the transformation into becoming a public space. These renewals and conversions are fascinating in their scope and individual circumstances. Places once given over to work and forbidden to the public now open onto their cities, joining again with the natural geography. If such reconciliations are often welcome and joyful, we have also noticed a trite aspect to certain sites that have become merely background scenery for consumerist cities. It is along these lines that we must continue to question ourselves about the function and meaning of these large reconquered spaces: their architecture, relevance, and longevity depend on it.

The workshop unfolds just like the actual situation: the program, phases, rhythms, documents, and support materials are those that have been determined by the contracting authority.

Halfway through the workshop a trip to Le Havre will provide the opportunity of experiencing and examining the actual situation up-close.

Among the participants in the workshop will be the project stakeholders, city officials, the mayor, the port authorities, and a number of experts (the close observation of the work of Perret, Prouvé, and Niemeyer will indeed be crucial). The trip will then continue to Paris for the study of major spaces.
The workshop is addressed to students in landscape architecture, architecture, and urbanism.