Candidate – France
Submission by: Ville de Lorient
Project name: Jules Ferry Park – Lorient
Designed in the 1970s, the Parc Jules Ferry had become less and less attractive: old plantations, fragmented spaces, no specific uses nor character, sealed mineral soils, excessive car use. The 4 ha area in the city center deserved a second life and the city started consulting the population to imagine what the new living public space would be like. Few years later, the Parc Jules Ferry is one of the favorite places of Lorient residents. Four hectares of nature in the heart of the city, the large park is open, active and popular. Its differentiated areas offer wide possibilities for distinctive uses: a shady pedestrian promenade down to the marina, an old car park transformed into water mirror, an open square for the city’s festive events, including the famous Lorient Interceltic Festival. In the South opens the large Faouëdic meadow with several planted islets. In the West thrives a children’s playground, inspired by the children’s wishes, including a large raft, suspended boats, play tower, tube slide and swings… The Parc Jules Ferry was awarded a Golden Victoire at the 2020 Victoires du Paysage.
A fast public appropriation
Local residents promptly adopted the park and its multiple uses. This most certainly was a direct result of the people being consulted by the city. Neighborhood meetings, workshops, in-depth surveys, articles in the press, drawing contest, supported by town planners and sociologists, this preliminary phase was essential in defining objectives of the project. All the public bodies concerned were approached: parents and children, high school students and young working people, shopkeepers, cafe owners and local residents, but also motorists, police officers, municipal agents, associations and other economic, social and cultural players in Lorient life.
Mixing social and personal uses
This in-depth consultation highlighted strong expectations for multiple and diverse fonctions. Daily uses for all generations: walking, jogging, playing, lunch break, picnicking, meeting… Festive social uses: carnival at Christmas and in summer, Interceltic Festival in August, flea markets, festival of associations and other social, sporting or cultural events…
Parc Jules Ferry is a peaceful, open and car-free place where all generations easily mingle. It attracts all kinds of public in a relaxed and safe-feeling atmosphere.
A new game was recently installed, meant to encourage easier coming for children with disabilities. Called “All-terrain”, it facilitates access for children with motor, sensory or mental disorders: even at an accelerated pace the body support is secure, and the rocking helps soothing children with autism. “Playing is essential to the growth and well-being of children: we must promote easy access for all of them!” said the deputy mayor in charge of social welfare.
One of the main expectations of the population was of course to bring back nature in the city, also hoping for increased biodiversity. Therefore, the plant range was carefully selected to attract pollinating insects.
Important was also to mitigate soil sealing and make the place much less mineral. The development works recreated a permeable living space, much better host for flora and fauna.
Vibrant heart of the city
The parc Jules Ferry in Lorient has become a real heart for the economic, social and cultural life of the city. The area was designed to best host important events throughout the year, and participate in the vitality and attractiveness of the city. This summer (August 2022), the Lorient Interceltic Festival welcomed more than 900,000 visitors. Twice a year, the carnival also attracts many visitors. Along the promenade, many cafes, restaurants and their terraces also add to the economic vitality of the city center.
The public had also expressed clear climate concerns when consulted: a strong need for nature in the city, willing to reduce cars, wanting to develop more active mobility, and asking for city cool islands…
Nature in the city
The greening framework was meant to preserve as much as possible the former plantations. The complementary plants were chosen for their low maintenance profile, no watering, and no pesticide necessary. Both new and old groves of trees add some shade and freshness, nicely extending the plane trees promenade.
Soil functions have been restored to help harvesting rainwater: reducing mineral areas, de-sealing parking places, removing asphalt and replacing it by simple stabilized soil.
The large water mirror was created to bring freshness in the summer. A smart and efficient water filtering and recovery system was specifically designed to lower water consumption. Not only do children and their parents enjoy they place, so do now insects and birds.
Last but not least, the night lighting was adapted in order to reduce costs, energy consumption and visual pollution.
The total space that used to be used by car traffic and parking places has been severely reduced: more than 500 parking spaces were removed. The new Parc Jules Ferry is a big promoter of both active mobility and public transportation; it offers own dedicated lanes for buses, a broad pedestrian promenade, widened sidewalks leading to the various public facilities (theatre, swimming pool, stadium, administrations) as well as to the marina and the harbor.
Wellbeing of visitors/users
The large number of visitors is a daily proof of its success. The park brings all substantial benefits of nature in the city: soothing effect of plants and trees, cooling effect of the plants islets and the water mirror, enticing physical activity and offering safe and nice places to enjoy. The social function of this park plays a key card in its success. Its numerous functions actively stimulate social and intergenerational interactions, create a peaceful atmosphere and give the sense of living well together. A daily proof of it is its permanent mingling of completely diverse audiences. Last but not least, the new park helped reducing the car traffic, offering soft mobility and public transportation. This profoundly transformed the spirit of the place, making the new place a green spot to enjoy.
Selection, origin and quality of the products and materials
Keeping as many plantations as possible and reusing as much as possible available materials was meant to reduce the ecological impact of the project. The new plants were selected from nurseries in various French regions, all renowned for the quality of their plants. The materials chosen for the children’s playground had to reflect the spirit of the park: gravel, oak decking, steel and transparent steel mesh.
The overall design
Parc Jules Ferry is structured by six major sectors. Alongside the city center, a shaded pedestrian promenade leads to the Marina. Adjoining the Convention Centre, the former car park has become a water mirror, extended by an open square, fitted out to host major festive events. To the south opens the large prairie, punctuated with islets of vegetation. To the west, a children’s play area, inspired by the designs imagined during a contest, proposes a play tower, a slide-tube and several swings. On either side of the large central meadow, two large rows of tall plane trees highlight both the northern and southern wharfs.
Most of the trees that were planted after the war, could be kept, despite a transition process: the city is gradually replacing plane trees with tulip trees. They have similar silhouettes and acclimate better. The existing plantations have been supplemented with a few groves and garden islands. These shady and cool areas benefit from a carefully chosen plant palette with low maintenance. 104 trees (Scots pines, red and bog oaks, tulip trees, liquidambars, etc.) and more than 16,000 plants have been planted in the park.
The alignments of plane trees were completed by the planting of a few stem trees (Liriodendron tulipifera). The transversal pathways connect the platforms and bring a breath of fresh air. From the basin afloat to the southern part, the large Faouëdic meadow and its garden islands are the central part of the park. Prior its refurbishment, the Place Jules Ferry benefited from a very small part of green spaces. Wide asphalt paths were the main part of the area. There was no biological continuities and no possible interactions with the surrounding landscape.
The garden islets / preserving the tree heritage
The project respects and preserves the existing plant heritage as much as possible while promoting its development (the islands) and creating new links with the networks of parks and gardens nearby. The meadow is punctuated by garden islands that reshape the prairie and best integrate the existing trees. These islands were an opportunity to plant dense groves of trees and to broaden the plant range. For example, 2 beautiful remaining pines were an opportunity to create a dense pine grove (Pinus sylvestris, Pinus bungeana…). This idea also applied for the prairie, today nice groves of pines, birches, oaks, maples and liquidambars.
The plant range is wide and hybrid. Horticultural species refer to the history of the place (Compagnie des Indes, import of oriental species…). They have been supplemented with more rustic, native species, reflecting the oceanic identity of the city. Each island has a specific tone and plant range. The plant selection was fined tuned depending on use, location and aesthetic.
- Wetlands for rainwater harvesting: varied irises and sedges
- Thematic garden islands: each having a different aesthetic:
Playground garden: Ballota, Artemisia, Agapanthus, Stipa, Salvia, Perowskia, Verbena, Rosmarinus, Pinus sylvestris, Zelkova sarpinifolia, Ostrya sarpinifolia and Acer campestre
Breton garden: Erica, Anemona, Santolina, Potentilla, Dryopteris, Betula utilis and papyrifera, Mopulus simonii
Sea garden: of Crambe, Elymus, Silene, Lygeum, Pennisetum, Ballota, Stipa, Artemisa, Senecio, Eremus and Pinus bungeana and sylvestris.
Groves of trees have been preserved or created to complete the shady areas and cool islands in continuity with the mall of plane trees that has existed since the reconstruction of the city on itself. The plane trees alignments have been supplemented by Liriodendron tulipifera. They had already proven to be very well adapted in the port in Lorient. The meadow was completed with Quercus pallustris, Ilex and Liquidambar.
Impact on environment (global approach, circular economy)
Making the soil fertile again
The project insisted on making the whole place fertile again. It resulted into a vast meadow of 1.6 hectares in the heart of the city. Major challenge was to reduce as much as possible the mineral footprint and to find a living space that would be permeable to favor the development of plants and fauna. Only 3 concrete pedestrian crossings (1.80m wide) facilitate north-south flows. The meadow remains a large free and available space.
Environmental benefits of plants
The park has the usual climatic function of urban green: trees evapo-transpiration, cooling islands, shady paths… With planted and porous surfaces, it offers areas for biodiversity (tree canopies, microfauna of permeable surfaces). Finally, it revives a feeling of nature, and all its socio-psychological impacts beneficial to health.
Re-use as much as possible
Reducing the consumption of natural resources was expressed right from the start. Reusing materials already on the site appeared feasible and allowed to reduce not only external purchases, but also the destruction and disposal of waste. 4km of curbs could be reused, as well as pieces of granite and paving. In the same spirit, felled tree trunks could be transformed into seating in the playground, while the mulch originates from the grinding of maintenance waste.
Innovative value of the project
The initial project was not only ambitious, it was also demanding, and had a very tight budget (€100 excl. VAT/m²). All teams had to respect budget and time constraints, they stormed with creativity, and invented original solutions.
Consulting the population
From the start of the project, the public consultation included the children. They were asked to imagine and draw their personal favorite games. A “Draw your playground” competition was organized, followed by children’s workshops. Games at height, huts and perched courses emerged as big favorites. The drawings were then transcribed and adapted by professionals to make these dreams become reality. The toboggan tower (a real custom-designed architectural object) is one of the direct results of this original consultation. Among previously existing trees, it found its place in the landscape. Made out of trunks, metal and ropes, and starting more than 7m high, it helps children feeling like big adventurers.
The Place Glotin is full of co-created inventions, from the landscape companies and the prime contractor. The Lorient water mirror is an inclined piece of water giving free rein to the flow of water. A simple technology was developed for reversing water through an overflow gutter and recovery at the low point with a pumping filtration system that saves equipment, storage and water.
Experimenting for the public benefit
Another innovation worth mentioning: equipment and games are made available to users of the park: every day from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m, city agents set up deck chairs, high tables, picnic tables, ping-pong tables and volleyball nets. “On request, we can also lend rackets and balls. This experiment could be expanded depending on user’s feedback”. Every Saturday, the city also installs three chalets on the promenade, offered to associations to give them more visibility