Half of the medium-size cities of France are slowly disappearing. From social and economical weaknesses, they experience a rang of symptoms such as shrinkage, urban decay, ageing and impoverished populations that directly impact their spatial qualities and their very own identity. They need a spatial and social cure to reinvent themselves.
But what cure?
Nowadays, they fight with generic, urban-focused and local urban solutions too settle to reinvent their broader identity. Landscapes on the other hand have this potential as widespread entities and natural connectors. I introduce ‘LARGE’ (Landscape Generation / Regeneration), a landscape-based, spatial and social transformation methodology I apply in Vierzon, the “French Detroit”. The valleys, forgotten life-line of the city are piling problems and it is entirely blocked from evolving by the flood-risk policy. I envisioned a flood-resilient waterscape to rework the policy contours and act as leverage to reveal the valley identity over 3 scales L, M and S.
At the large-scale (L), the flood-resilient waterscape generates 3 enhanced and connected valley landscapes : a lake landscape buffering water and supporting nature-inclusive developments; a porous city crossed by green channels for water to flow while creating urban, collective and denser islands; an accentuated meander landscape easing the discharge of flood-waters, new natural structure of a more local and diverse agrarian landscape. These 3 enhanced valley landscapes are shaping the spin of Vierzon’s new identity via intricate spaces, nature and mobility networks, urban and touristic developments.
This thesis then investigates the consequences of the large-scale waterscape actions over the urban valley (M). Here, the widening of the confluence and the opening of the canal axis are creating more space for the river and reactivating the disused canal. Functions on these areas have to be relocated and this starts the reorganisation and restructuring of the downtown area. This decaying, vacant and car-dominated space can transform, shaping multi-user spaces and networks, smartly gathering working and shopping functions in clusters near the valley in order to intensify the downtown area.
This graduation finally focuses on the Yèvre park (S), iconic rebirth of the river over the former canal axis. It supporting the downtown area, highlight the former canal axis via two structuring paths and reacts to the neighbouring city in 3 specific river sequences. It starts with the intense urban river as the vitrine of the active downtown area, the natural and playful meandering river in between two living water banks and finally the braided river, a blooming natural waterspace next to the innovative and blooming valley economical cluster.
Through the example of Vierzon and its valley, LARGE (Landscape Generation / Regeneration) proves, as an approach and method, that landscapes are a possible and efficient leverage to revitalise the decaying and stagnant medium-size cities. Landscapes and leverages types being so diverse, LARGE could transform and shape a diversity of landscape-driven identities, for what the struggling medium-size cities need now is to change their paths from depreciation to fascination.
Graduation committee: Roel van Gerwen (mentor), Pierre-Alexandre Marchevet and Hein Coumou. Additional members for the exam: Berdie Olthof and David Kloet.