On November 28th, Mayor Martine Aubry publicly announced a team led by Gehl Architects as the winners of an international competition for the ‘Saint-So’ neighbourhood of Lille, France. The team will have responsibility for the urban design of this new district, formerly a train yard. The 23hectare site will become a new neighbourhood of 2000 residences and will include shops, cultural and sports facilities. Our team was one of four shortlisted teams from 70 applicants, and we are honored to be chosen to stitch a new piece of fabric in this city that so critically connects Europe.
The team is comprised of our representative in France, urbaniste Claire Schorter, and in Lille architects Béal et Blankaert, Mageo, Artelia and tribu; and landscape architects Signes-Ouest.
Helle Søholt, CEO & Founding Partner of Gehl Architects, reflects on winning the international competition for the ‘Saint-So’ neighbourhood of Lille, France.
A piece of city
In September, when we were finishing our entry for the Lille – Saint Sauveur masterplan competition in France, I had a dream …
In this dream, I did not see shiny tall buildings and stand-alone architecture. I saw the new district from the air, quiet and at night. All the streets and spaces were beautifully illuminated illustrating a network of lively streets and spaces that continued into the city center and surrounding neighborhoods.
When you see our proposed development framework for the Lille – Saint-Sauveur site, you will note that it has small urban blocks that enable development at a human scale, combining big urban infrastructure and legible spaces with a fine grain urban form. So where is the big idea, some might ask …
What I have described above, is our “big idea”:
To build a piece of the city that connects to Lille – to build a piece of future Lille.
Our team is passionate about what we do.
Gehl Architects does not take a traditional building approach to urban development.
We believe in a knowledge driven process, shared intelligence and great team work.
We are grateful to win this competition. We believe the qualities and goals described in the project – a sustainable, livable and people oriented place, are a perfect match with what we can deliver as an organization.
The types of cities that work with us show great leadership and have a remarkably simple focus in common: They want their cities to be especially kind to people. They have come to realize that people are the key to success in cities today!
And they are ready to work in new ways through a new process.
I started Gehl Architects together with Professor Jan Gehl in 2000, and today we represent a new generation of urbanists and a great team with the ambition to change the traditional planning paradigm and build ‘Cities for People’.
We are already advisors to some of the greatest and most innovative municipalities around the world. Winning this project in Lille enables us to take a next step as an organization. We will now also manage the design development and implementation of these ideas in a lead position with Lille. A city which offers a unique location in central Europe and a great tradition of courageous leaders and great decision makers. Thank you for this opportunity and congratulations to the team!
David Sim, Creative Director and Partner talks about the winning proposal.
“First of all just working in Lille was a very enjoyable experience in itself. Lille is a beautiful city with a fascinating historic core – very much at the human scale – as well as being a dynamic city which has been at been at the forefront of urban innovation for the last couple of decades. Everyone has heard of Euralille and the infrastructural investments which have put Lille at the very heart of Europe – an hour from Paris, an hour from London and half an hour from Brussels.
The Saint Sauveur site is an exciting challenge. As so often with big pieces of railway infrastructure, the site divided the city and there was an opportunity to connect four very different parts of Lille to each other – we just had to work from the outside in and from the inside out, talking to each part of the surroundings in their own urban language and then bring each of these places and identities together into a great public space at the heart of the site for everyone to share.” - David Sim.