MVRDV’s visionary masterplan for Presqu’ile de Caen reaches over 600 hectares of the historic city of Caen, stretching from the city centre along the long peninsular bordered by the Orne river and the canal leading to the sea. The masterplan looks to revitalise the area which was formerly home to the heavy industries of Caen that left the local environment scarred by years of pollution.
The project is highly progressive in its scope, ambition and context. Not only does it integrate and respect the historic nature of the area but it also unites the city and its neighbouring towns, Hérouville Saint-Clair and Mondeville, and their vision for a development plan built up of a series of direct interventions. The masterplan includes a widely integrated series of uses including housing, offices, mixed-use buildings, public spaces and infrastructure.
The precise methodology that was applied to the project led to the development of a specific spatial planning tool, ‘the offset’. In practice this idea creates a secondary street network and shared public space around buildings and community areas to act as a mediator between the existing and new parts of the scheme. The offset takes the form of an urban version of the ‘bocage’, the historic hedgerows of Normandy, and gives back to the area the natural heritage that was taken from it during the industrial era; whilst at the same time it provides a base for future interventions to maintain the consistent poetry of the area. Winy Maas, co-founder of MVRDV, describes the project as ‘aiming for a beautiful urban valley abundant with hedges in the heart of Normandy’.
Three specific areas formed the base for further research, development and eventual intervention. Used as examples for the masterplan in its entirety, these zones underwent in-depth analysis to further develop the offset tool with a much higher level of specificity, each with different guidelines which better reflected the specific qualities, characters and history of the area.
Through intensely layering the master-planning rules along with various scenarios and site-specific situations the final result is a highly effective, yet visionary, mosaic of infrastructure, building typologies, historical elements and natural environment. The design balances the need for specificity and flexibility which will allow Caen and its neighbouring towns to be able to cope with future development in a way that will restore the identity of the area rather than detract from it.
MVRDV worked on Le Grand Mosaïque alongside: co-architect, Diagram Architecture; landscape architects Territoires; urbanists, Pro Devéloppment; infrastructure specialists, Egis; sociologist Philippe Cabane; and model maker Made by Mistake.