Cour et jardin public de la Cour des Images

Bourg-lès-Valence (France), 2009

Creation of a garden in the courtyard of an old phalanstery.

technical sheet

CITY: Bourg-lès-Valence (18 inhabitants)





AREA: 4,950 m2

COST: 1,500,000 €



Cécile Azambre Frédéric Reverseau



previous state

On the outskirts of Borg-lès-Valence, close to the railway line, there used to be a state-owned munitions factory, which was abandoned after the 1990s. The oldest part of the industrial complex consisted of three elongated naves placed in the form of a horseshoe around a semi-enclosed courtyard. They were built in the mid-nineteenth century on the terraces of a former orchard to constitute a phalanstery, the headquarters of a self-sufficient community inspired by the utopian socialist Charles Fourier, in which each individual could work according to his or her own passions.

intervention object

In 2001, a committee consisting of representatives of the Bourg-lès-Valence Council, the Rhône-Alpes region and the Département de la Drôme declared the building historic heritage and decided to refurbish it as a graphic design centre. With this in mind, entries were called for in a competition that entailed the paradoxical desire that this place, besides being adapted for such a specific use, could also be understood as a public space open to visitors and local residents alike.

intervention description

The proposal of the prize-winning project of the competition was that of resolving the paradox by means of creating a garden that was to be named Cour des Images (Courtyard of Images) in the courtyard of the old phalanstery. A row of paper mulberry trees (Broussonetia papyrifera) divides the garden into two equal halves. One is reserved for users of the graphic design centre that now occupies the building, while the other is open to everyone. The two gardens have a structure resembling a tartan pattern in taking the form of an orthogonal set of interlinked paths. Those running in a north-south direction are made of prefabricated concrete slabs, while the others, perpendicular to the former, are covered with oxidised steel plates. Although they are all at the same level, when two paths cross, one type of material is interrupted to let the other through thus creating an effect of superimposition.

With this kind of criss-crossing, the paths generate rectangular interstitial spaces of planted ground. While some are planted with different types of broom shrubs (genista linifolia and genista tinctoria) or with flowers, for example the iris or African lily (Agapanthus africanus) that seem to be floating on mono-hued green leaves, others are simply covered in lawn that can be walked on. The former abound in the garden reserved for the users of the building and the latter prevail in the part of the garden that is open to the public, thus gaining in terms of user capacity. Besides the mulberry trees, the two gardens are separated by a canal filled with water populated by aquatic plants and with a path, wider than the rest, running alongside it. At the northern end of the courtyard there is another canal. In this case, it crowns a retaining wall that had to be constructed in order to keep the whole garden on a horizontal plane, and it serves the function of preventing visitors going too close to the edge and falling off. The water in the two canals is used for irrigating the garden and is oxygenated by means of a system of underwater tubes, which makes them habitable for fish.

intervention valuation

The public section of the Cour des Images garden is visually extended towards the part of restricted use in such a way that both form a whole that is true to the original dimensions of the courtyard of the old phalanstery. This, along with the degree of abstraction derived from its rigorous geometry, makes the garden a utopian haven from the disorderly world beyond its confines.

David Bravo Bordas, architect