CITY: Bourg-lès-Valence (18 inhabitants)
BEGINNING OF THE PROJECT: 2004
BEGINNING OF WORK: 2006
END OF WORK: 2009
AREA: 4,950 m2
COST: 1,500,000 €
previous stateOn 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 objectIn 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 descriptionThe 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.
intervention valuationThe 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