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Saint Félix Lauragais

A work on landscape. Landscape is the work. Saint Félix Lauragais, a fortified village, on top of a hill.

Saint-Félix Lauragais is a small village in the urban area around Toulouse (France). The elected officials encounter a difficulty to revive these suburban places. Located in the middle of the Lauragais hills, Saint-Félix’s geography is so strong that walking down the streets and alleys you get to see incredible views towards the countryside and the Pyrenees. Historically, Saint-Félix is a very old village, a “bastide” which was created in the XIIIth century. Public spaces were in deteriorated state and full of sadness, and only cars occupied the whole place. The mayor and the town council wanted to give a new life to their village.

The project consists in creating a vacuum. Working to make an intense vacuum. A vacuum that allows the whole site to resonate. A vacuum to allow the inhabitant to take place. To empty is very simple and complex at the same time. It is to remove all unnecessary details; to solve all the practical problems so they do not appear. To focus on what is essential. In Saint Félix, the main thing is the relief; these slopes both uncomfortable and amazing. The project seeks to create places to be at, to sit down, to speak to one’s neighbor or to just watch the landscape.

On the town’s plaza, a large rectangle is cut into the slope. It forms a base for the hall. In front of the mills, the sidewalk becomes a belvedere. Towards the “montagne noire” (the “black mountain”), a sunken balcony gives the feeling of falling in the landscape.
The main element is water; water flowing through the streets, through the geological faults. A small ditch, with edges trimmed by hand. A small trench inside the concrete guides water, allowing one to feel its way. On the plaza, it resurfaces in a little canal where children can play. A single material: concrete. It is implemented in different ways: polished off, sanded, bush-hammered. It reforms a unitary base from which the buildings of the village emerge. Aside from the grids that draw the movement of the water flowing through them. No style effect. Alone at the heart of the project, a tree is planted. It is the heart of the village, called to grow and offer its shadow. At its base, a design carved in concrete draws a winding. The winding of water which restarts underground. Just one detail, to put the whole project in motion.

The project came to life thanks a long process with the town counselors and the population. During more than a year we have organized various meetings about the project in order to share a same point of view on the goals to pursue. We have changed many times our project after discussions with the population and after simulating directly our project on the ground with colors. The aim was to take into account the small habits of the people and of the very few shopkeepers, in order to encourage and reinforce the little of life which was occurring there despite the concurrency of the shopping centers all around and the dispersion of the public commodities. It was a good way to help the inhabitants realize the changes to come to their village. Usually, they have indeed, many difficulties to understand the plans and the technical drawings. We associated to the head of the historical department who had to check all the works inside this village, classed among the most beautiful villages of France. The construction company was a real partner and really assisted us in making the project with very ambitious goals in the quality of the details. First, some inhabitants were worried about the “modernity” of the project in this village. But now, most of them have adopted these new spaces which allow taking a rest in the public space, having a moment with a neighbor or to peer the landscape. During the weekend or the holidays, several events take place in the village. The spaces are very easy to appropriate during such festivity. People are very happy to invest the places with many possibilities of staging. Children use the space too, and they particularly play around the water spots. It is very important to answer to the stakes of the urban sprawl. Many of these villages around a big city (such as Toulouse here) are given up by the population which get more and more used to going to the shopping center. Most of the projects of public space are realized in the city centers. We are convinced that it is very important to pay attention to every public space, especially small spaces stretched around the suburban area.

Entrant office name: « d’Une Ville à l’autre … » – Pierre Roca D’Huyteza
Role of the entrant in the project: Architect and Urban planner
Website: www.dunevillealautre.fr
Other designers involved in the design of landscape: Sophie Balas, artist
Project location (Street, City, Country): Saint-Félix-Lauragais (31540), France
Design year: 2013
Year Built: 2015

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