Parc de la Villette
An award-winning project noted for its architecture and new strategy of urban organization, La Villette has become known as an unprecedented type of park, one based on “culture” rather than “nature.” The park is located on what was one of the last remaining large sites in Paris, a 125-acre expanse previously occupied by the central slaughter houses and situated at the northeast corner of the city. In addition to the master plan, the project involved the design and construction of over 25 buildings, promenades, covered walkways, bridges, and landscaped gardens over a period of fifteen years. A system of dispersed “points”—the red enameled steel folies that support different cultural and leisure activities—is superimposed on a system of lines that emphasizes movement through the park. more
The design for the Parc de la Villette was selected from over 470 international competitors. The objectives of the competition were both to mark the vision of an era and to act upon the future economic and cultural development of a key area in Paris. As described in the competition, La Villette was not intended as a simple landscape replica; on the contrary, the brief for this “urban park for the 21st century” developed a complex program of cultural and entertainment facilities.
La Villette could be conceived of as one of the largest buildings ever constructed — a discontinuous building but a single structure nevertheless, overlapping the site’s existing features and articulating new activities. It opposes the landscape notion of Olmsted, widespread during the 19th century, that “in the park, the city is not supposed to exist.” Instead, it proposes a social and cultural park with activities that include workshops, gymnasium and bath facilities, playgrounds, exhibitions, concerts, science experiments, games and competitions, in addition to the Museum of Science and Technology and the City of Music on the site. At night during the summer, the broad playing fields become an open-air movie theater for 3,000 spectators. The park currently accommodates around eight million visitors a year.
International Competition, 1st prize, 1983
125 acres; 250,000 sq. feet of folies
and covered galleries
French National Government (Presidency)
J.M. Monthiers, Peter Mauss/Esto, Sophie Chivet
Lead Designer: Bernard Tschumi. Key Personnel: Luca Merlini, Alexandra Villegas, Luca Pagnamenta, Galen Cranz, Phoebe Cutler, William Wallis, Jon Olsen, Thomas Balsley, Jean-François Erhel, Ursula Kurz, Christian Biecher, Marie-Line Luquet, Neil Porter, Steve McAdam, Jean-Pierre Nourry, Didier Pasquier, Renzo Bader back