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Before the intervention. The boulevard Vivier-Merle in the Part Dieu neighbourhood was very dysfunctional in relation to its intense occupation due to superimposition of the urban functions located along it.


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previous state

Boulevard Vivier-Merle, in the heart of the business district constructed in the 1970s around Lyon's Part Dieu railway station from which it takes its name, is one of the city's main arteries of north-south circulation. The avenue, which runs parallel to the station’s railway lines, was a traffic complex, surrounded by different levels of transit and acting as a barrier between the centre of Lyon and new eastward developments. The urban fabric of the zone had major discontinuities in the alignment of the buildings, of mainly equipment and service functions and singular volumetric forms, that lined the boulevard, and this did not help to offer a simple reading of a space that was polarised by a main road that was more inter-urban than its name might suggest.

Despite the density of occupation of the boulevard, caused by the complexity and multiplicity of its uses – the TGV station, bus station, municipal library, shopping mall, hotels and office blocks, among others – the space did not offer coherent routes for pedestrians, while also ignoring the everyday itineraries that were favoured in the areas between some of these entities. As a result of these factors the space was progressively consolidating as a functional platform but paradoxically jeopardised by its own poor urban performance.

aim of the intervention

Historically, the urban planners believed that the Part Dieu district was destined to be a main centre for the city of Lyon and, on a number of occasions, different attempts were made to implement urban improvement plans in the area. In the 1990s, the Part Dieu district Remodelling Project gave special emphasis to reorganising the different transit routes of the zone and determined that remodelling and improving public spaces was the prior necessary condition for its proper general functioning. The implementation of the plan for two new tramlines in 1997 meant reactivating the project of improving the boulevard Vivier-Merle and calling for tenders by the Urban Community of Lyon.

The remodelling work had to consider how to bring about a better integration of the district with the rest of the city, to rethink and optimise general mobility in this long space between city crossroads in order to transform it into a pole of connection points between different types of transport – train, underground, bus, pedestrians and vehicles – and provide public spaces that would clarify and classify the different routes of the area, thereby ensuring proper use of the public services and stimulating activity in the street-level floors of the buildings along the avenue.


The project began by questioning the nature of the space where the intervention was to be carried out and a decision was made that, instead of deciding a priori to turn it into a boulevard that had never really existed, it was necessary to seek elements of the area that would transform it into a singular location. In a preliminary study of the different types of malfunctioning caused by the overlapping of transit flows, of the origins of the types of occupation of the space, the railway station (with 75,000 users per day) and the big shopping mall (100,000 people per day), the intervention identified three sectors between crossroads, which, while appreciably different, would be dealt with as a continuity and in keeping with pre-existing principles. The project, then, viewed the area as an esplanade and work was done on it as a whole to give it its urban identity.

In providing better transit for pedestrians, a difficult task because of the density and confusion of traffic flows, and because of the organisation of the space at both ground and underground levels, it was necessary to eliminate the profusion of elements at different points, for example the badly defined bus station, the different auxiliary constructions and scattered street fixtures, and to remedy the insufficient and arbitrary presence of trees that contributed towards giving an impression to the citizen of a generally anarchic, chaotic and highly confused urban setting, despite the clearly urban functions of the buildings in the area.

The work freed the new esplanade space from the surrounding traffic, thereby bringing a calmer atmosphere to the entire area of intervention. The significant prior presence of transport infrastructure meant limiting the circulation of private vehicles exclusively to subways, with a concentrated presence of public transport spaces on the surface. In bringing about better functioning of the existing subways for cars, two sections of these tunnels were modified, without restricting pedestrian transit, so that they would provide appropriate access to the previously existing car parks of hotels, shops and office buildings, and to other roads. The great number of service installations and networks below ground level made it necessary to create a strategic reserve of places that could take quantities of fertile soil in which big trees could be planted – exceptional examples – these being considered as essential elements in the conception of the project for improving the environment and landscaping of the new space. The project opted for levelling the ground, adopting a simple geometry and using materials that were both simple and unifying for clarifying and giving new dimensions to the former avenue, creating the proper distinctions between pedestrian spaces and those especially refurbished for the stops and routes of the numerous already-existing bus companies, and of the new tramlines. The general paving, essentially of granite, extended to the facades and covered spaces of buildings, giving a greater perception of a continuity of public space and establishing an interesting dialogue with all the built-up surroundings, the scale of which was particularly borne in mind when it came to constructing shelters and the equipment and facilities for the bus and light railway stops – transparent new structures of steel, wood and glass – and in the placement of a line of 24-metre-high lighting spires along the central part of the new esplanade.


This project carried out in the centre of the station district of Part Dieu, has meant a harmonised reorganisation of the different types of transport, both pre-existing and new, with individual reinforcement being given to each type through improvements to its particular functioning, while fostering their complementary use, the main condition for any inter-modal node or activity aimed at improving public transport. The new dimensions given to the entire area through accepting that there are different specific zones along the esplanade while making them part of the general definition and logic, and the improved relations achieved between this renovated urban entry point with the rest of the city, have given a more forceful reading to the new public space, which is exceptional in its dimensions, as an open vestibule to the station and to the rest of the city. The articulation of urban transport functions within the new and splendidly equipped public space has now defined it as an excellent point of interchange, urban planning and recuperated comfort for the citizen.

Mònica Oliveres i Guixer, architect

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The quality of materials used for the facilities of the new esplanade have adapted it as a space expressing civic values and comfort.

technical sheet

CITY: Lyon (445,452 inhabitants)





AREA: 36,000 m2

COST: 13,014,600 €



Alexandre Chemetoff, Bureau des Paysages


SOL Paysage, INGEFRA / ETUDALP, Marc Mimram, Agence des Espaces Publics, Atelier Roland JEOL