The Mont of Epernay is a 3,7 hectare natural site overlooking the city of the same name, capital of the Champagne region. This witness hill has always been an important local landmark, as can be seen in old postcards of the city.
Part of it’s forest belongs to the Moet Family, which planted pine trees in the early 19th century. A hundred years later, it was registered for the 360 ° panoramic view from its hilltop. Little by little, trees and shrubs overtook the hill creating a very isolated peak with no views, mainly because of the changes in land use (disappearance of sand pits, orchards and gardens on the hillside). The place was mostly used by joggers or bikes, and was even occupied by a burnt car … Not a very safe environment for a family to wonder around!
The landscape planning to enhance this natural site started at the end of 2011, with many ideas like a canopy skywalk, land art, barefoot walk or even a high viewing tower overlooking the Champagne Vineyard. The Epernay group of Councils in charge of the project had already organized the design of many natural places and gardens, but also Vine gardens, a series of outdoor museographic areas.
In 2015, it was decided that a sightseeing balloon would be placed in the center of Epernay, so the bird’s eye view was no longer needed on the hill. The landscaping project of the Mont d’Epernay was to be much more natural and mostly focus on opening up the views that once existed towards the surrounding hills and vineyard. At about the same time, the Champagne Hillsides, Houses and Cellars were included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in recognition of their “exceptional universal value”.
The 2016 development project consists in rediscovering the ‘spirit of place’ while taking into account its evolution. The project seeks to find a balance between the existing forest (ash trees, maple trees with occasional oaks and pines) and new open grassland areas. Two viewpoints have been established to improve the visit of residents or tourists and offer views towards Hautvillers, the Historic UNESCO hillsides and the famous Avenue de Champagne. The grassland is maintained by eco-grazing or brush cutting. Narrow pathways now naturally guide from one area to another.
Many trees, Robinia pseudoacacia, were growing on one side of the hill with the potential to be used in a natural playground project or to build custom wooden outdoor furniture. In France, these natural play areas made of rugged pieces of wood are still rare, not like in Northern Europe or Germany. The local wood cut on the spot was perfect to build the play area elements and grind to cover the ground : a genuine bio-based process ! Additional quantities of wood were needed for the stairs, furniture and terraces.
This very natural project has emerged from the forest ground and helps the site to fully exist again. In order to better understand the components of the surrounding landscape, interpretative panels are also being produced on the themes of fauna, flora, geology, the Celts and the UNESCO classified vineyard.
Name of the project: MONT D’EPERNAY
Role of the entrant in the project: LANDSCAPE DESIGNER AND PROJECT MANAGER
Project location: RUE DE LA SOURCE, 51 200 EPERNAY
Design year: 2016
Year Built: 2018