Landscaping the Providence sector and the banks of the Sarthe River – ALENÇON (Orne)


Completion year First lot completed in 2016
Contracting Authority Municipality of Alençon
Mission Creating a public park and a footbridge, and reclaiming the riverbanks
Project Management Team Landscape architects and designers Laure Planchais (mandated agent), Consulting engineers Arcadis, Light designers 8.18
Surface area 16,000 m²
Budget €2.4m exc. VAT
Ratio €150 exc. VAT per m²

Located in the historic centre of Alençon, the site includes 3 entities: a venerable religious institution teaching deaf-mutes, its outbuildings, and a public square, the whole linked by the bordering Sarthe River.
The facing riverbank will host a planned bus terminal, currently in the design phase and to be completed concurrently to this project (Project-managed by Sogetti).
The intent is to reinforce and encourage urban daily walking (to or from the market, the bus terminal and the shopping strips) as well as providing a setting for events and a tourist presence, especially making use of the continuity to be created along the Sarthe. This was outlined in a guide plan prior to the consultation (with architect Paul Ravaux).
The composition encompasses the predictable logic underlying these kinds of trails, highlighting the surrounding monuments and the traces that show how the Sarthe River and the city have evolved across the site (the former riverbed before it was channelled and the ancient battlements).
We completed a footbridge across the Sarthe River to spare the core of the site and to provide a powerful urban anchor. Made of irregular metal mesh, the footbridge lets through glimpses of the surrounding site, expressing a contemporary take on lace as it generates an intense interplay of light and shade. The footbridge’s metal frame is adorned with small ironwork elements.
To the north of the site there is a phenology garden with white flowers evoking the kinds of floral and leafy motifs that have inspired Alençon lace.
Lastly, the project is also deploying alphabetical sculptures representing sign language patterns (hands made of bronze set in a stand, moulded from the students and teachers at the Providence institution), also translated into braille, as an entertaining tribute the site’s educational past.

Feedback (last visit in 2016)

  • Densely veined robinia boards have proven to be ineffective against slippage. This will be resolved by adding a corundum seal.
  • Children are spontaneously using the slabs dotting the lawn for games that are half-way between hopscotch and leapfrog
  • Children and adults have fun reproducing the letters in French sign language whenever they walk past the hand sculptures.
  • The motif used for the footbridge has inspired the design of the municipality’s New Year’s Day cards 2016!