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Can infrastructures be sustainable?

Sustainability also concerns infrastructures!

The imprecision or absence of precise issues, as much as indicators, doesn’t impose, in a tangible way, the sustainable city. It’s a different matter for architecture, for which there exist new forms of validation, criteria, modes of conception, building systems, etc.

Place de la République’s sketch, Martin Etienne
Place de la République’s sketch, Martin Etienne

Sustainable, yes, but everywhere

The imperative of the “sustainable city” mustn’t lead to an obsession with the future, but should be able to think longer term, thereby to connect with the past as well.

The sustainable metropolis’ transformation should be related to a metamorphosis, that’s to say the advent of a new condition drawn from the former, by the awakening or the activation of dormant elements. Through this lens, the sustainable isn’t amnesic but is anchored in history and the main landmarks it has produced.

The concern is to reach a form of isotropy in the research into the notion of the sustainable city, including its whole territory, drawing on elements that compose and articulate its different spaces. The spatial and temporal scales, from the local to the metropolitan and even to regional territories, generate the frame within which the rebalancing of the developmental actions are at stake. The metropolis, the new scale of an urbanity with obsolete communal limits, is complex.  Its development must integrate some new elements, already there but conceptually rendered “invisible” or simply “harmful”. That is the case, for example, with the large transport infrastructures with which it is necessary to compose.

City-making with transport infrastructures

Our Porte Pouchet project is revealing of this point of view. The creation of a metropolitan-scale public space, intersecting with the Périphérique’s infrastructure, initiates the encounter of scales, a recurrent character of the territory. Working on so called “complex” typologies (“the complex plot”), our project reveals the capacity of devalued terrains to produce genuine urban conditions. The interventions into the built heritage, such as the Bois-le-Prêtre tower, its potential re-use or rehabilitation, allows the working out of the necessary articulations between urban renewal and densification. Finally, considered in its different temporalities, the use is an approach to the increased utilisation of urban space and its associated facilities.

Article de Pierre Alain Trévelo et Antoine Viger-Kohler published in Projets urbains durables, stratégies, edited by Ariella Masboungi, éditions Le Moniteur, Paris, 2012.