Parc des Expositions in Saint-Brieuc

The empty space

Void, contrary to popular belief, is a field of all possibilities and all permissions. This free zone gives rise to a scene since it offers multiple possibilities to open spaces. The unknown can then arise there: this is the director’s Peter Brook theory in his essay L’espace vide (Editions du Seuil, 1977).

He develops here the idea that emptiness is a creative power:

I can take any empty space and call it a stage. Someone crosses this empty space while someone else observes it, and that is enough for the theatrical act to be initiated.

– Peter Brook

This conception supposes that an image purified to the extreme can raise the form of something essential, which subsists through time and authorizes all human activities.

This notion has crossed and nourished the development project of the Saint-Brieuc Parc des Expositions.

1. Context

Placed at two wooded valleys confluence, the Park forecourt takes place at the heart of a facilities network. This site is surrounded by the Gouët departmental forest and by the Gouëdic, which flows over a few kilometres between Ploufragan and the Légué port in Saint-Brieuc.
A place which, if it seems isolated at first sight, is in reality animated by the Pierre de Coubertin street, which crosses it and serves it to form the city entrance. The esplanade shapes its extension. It then becomes a strategic point, an open space to the surrounding city and a gathering point for, in particular, the Foire Expo of the Côtes d’Armor, a festive and lively public showcase on the Palais des Congrès.

If the project originally aimed to reprocess the forecourt facade to give an urban dimension to the massiveness of the architectural objects, it also aimed to requalify this entrance to the city: how to design this new facade, and on which scale? But also, how to draw a place that is both empty and full, a place that remains alive and animated even when nothing is happening there? Finally, how to program its scalability so that it remains as versatile as possible?

These questions reflect, in part, the whole issue of the public space.

2. Atmosphere

The project has both a functional aspect, through the open space in the center which can accommodate commercial activities, and a sensory aspect through the creation of an atmosphere. The textures that make it up are inspired by the existing, in particular, the local geography: the paving pattern is made from a pixelation game with the meeting between the Gouët and the Gouëdic, a way to draw the place from the surrounding context and to stage the relative topography of the site. The open central space and the ground clarity sublimate the Brittany sky-shifting luminosity.

In this search for singular textures, the reuse of the existing has strongly been favoured during the construction, in particular with particular stone assemblies and the reuse of old dismantled entrance pavilions. Finally, the planted vegetation corresponds to the local biodiversity: groves, pines and Brittany moorland. It allows natural infiltration of rainwater, promoting zero discharge – all the more virtuous given the local climate –but also contributes to the creation of a familiar, intimate and attractive atmosphere, which seizes the passer-by to immerse him directly in the Brittany landscape. This atmosphere summons all the senses, since it offers not only the vision of a landscape, but also sensations: the wind and the moor smell, for example, that recall the nearby spray.

3. Free space

The forecourt being, thanks to its open central space, an evolving place, its design allows varied appropriations in different situations and uses: spatial devices, very contrasting, can be installed there according to the calendar of events.
The 16-meter-high masts that frame the square also play a central role: they are both signals that mark and draw the entrance to the city by their monumental scale, but can also be used for event purposes thanks to their ornaments (flags, banners…). Their presence underlies a festive aspect which nevertheless leaves the central space clear, in which they assume a status that is both commercial and event-driven and makes possible the place animation. They also allow this free space to give the forecourt great versatility of use and leave the possibility for the unexpected to happen.
This release evokes a scenic dimension in which the furniture takes part since the benches are movable. The space then recalls the appearance and function of a theatre stage, which brings together the place and the city.

Project name: Development of the Parc des Expositions forecourt in Saint-Brieuc

Website: praxys-paysage.fr

Other designers involved in the design of landscape (architects and landscape architects): Colleu-Coquard-Charrier architects / Armor Ingénierie

Project Location: Saint-Brieuc, France (Brittany)

Design year: 2013

Year Built: 2016

Photographer: Karolina Samborska

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