by Cynthia Deng (MArch I/ MUP ’21) and Hannah Hoyt (MArch I ’21)
La Défense is a business district in constant transformation, but our rapidly changing climate means that its energy-intensive and resource-extractive model of construction, consumption, and demolition is no longer tenable. Looking forward, we ask: can La Défense shift toward a circular system of reuse that builds on its existing material, intellectual, and built resources? Within La Défense, the Saisons’ aging vacant Brutalist buildings, proximity to flows of construction materials, underutilized underground parking desk, residents’ and workers’ knowledge, and existing collective economic networks make it an ideal site to test a platform for reuse.
As an alternative to demolition, the vast parking deck is repurposed to store salvaged construction materials and to house repair and upcycling workshops where skilled workers transform those materials. Careful interventions into the parking deck create a cascading landscape that connects to neighboring town Courbevoie and the Seine river. The lower floors of existing buildings become sites of exchange, where people, ideas, materials, food and services recirculate within diverse alternate economies. Both old and new buildings hold spaces to envision, where circular economy organizations, green startups, and businesses experiment and where a skills training center equips workers to enter and lead this new reuse industry.
These programs are connected by the linear commons, a light framework of CLT panels and columns that contrasts with the weathered concrete of the existing buildings. The linear commons stitches together old and new buildings by fixing existing circulation issues and creating new pathways. Weaving through the site, the linear commons creates liminal zones of interactions between programs, inserts new spaces for congregation into the old, and elevates visitors to heightened relationships with the existing buildings.