How to Combine a Dense City with an Open Landscape 1

Thursday, December 5th, 2013
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Danish architecture firm BIG has managed to combine open space with urban life through the creation of an 800,000 square metre cultural, recreational and retail development north of Paris.

Earlier this year, the company, directed by Bjarke Ingels, won an international architectural competition for the design of Europa City, an urban plan located next to the highway in Triangle de Gonesse, outside of Paris.

The proposal aims to combine a dense urban area with an open landscape. BIG studied the urban and green potential of the site to create a commercial centre which will serve as a meeting point for those living in the nearby suburbs, and which includes rather than excludes the surrounding city.


The proposal aims to create a commercial centre designed to become a meeting point for the nearby suburbs.

Located between Charles de Gaulle Airport and Paris’ city centre, the development features a diverse range of programs and activities as part of a larger initiative to attract international tourists to the northern areas of Paris.

The project features an internal boulevard which includes retail, entertainment and cultural programs on both sides and which forms a continuous loop for vehicles. Along the boulevard, public transport and cycling areas ease the traffic flow easier, while a circular street creates surprising spatial experiences and a clear overview.

“It allows you to get lost, and still find your way,” architects said.


Different layers feature a dynamic combination of open walking paths and green spaces.

Europa City connects directly to the Paris Metro and RER (express interurban train) station, which will be also integrated into the new urban design. The station will be the starting point of a new pedestrian street which serves as the backbone of the project. Side streets run perpendicular to the pedestrian promenade, and they all meet at the centre, providing shortcuts for visitors and a connection to the surrounding neighbourhoods.

The heart of the project is a large central park which secures the green continuity and connection between the Carré Vert (green corridor) and the area of Buttes Saint-Simon, looping the belt of suburban parks outside Paris. The central park will be a public facility for the neighbouring communities and for visitors.


A central park secures the green continuity and connection between the belt of suburban parks outside Paris.

Different layers of the plan serve different functions and include a dynamic combination of open walking paths, green spaces, a golf course, an integrated transit system, and indoor retail venues that are stepped back and open into plazas and walkways. Ingels said these walkways are designed to imitate the intimacy of Parisian streets and street life, creating both a space of relaxation and high excitement.

Europa City also features large green and recreational areas, artificial ski slopes, restaurants, cafes and shops. The buildings are covered by a landscaped roof that undulates and reaches up to different heights, as regulated by local zoning rules.


Side streets perpendicular to the pedestrian promenade will provide shortcuts for visitors and connect the project to the surrounding neighbourhoods.

According to its creators, Europa City will offer a mix of retail, culture and leisure on an unprecedented scale. The plan revolves around a defining theme: Europe, its diversity, its urban experiences and its cultures.

“Rather than orienting Europa City towards the highway, we propose to integrate it as the natural centre of a new business district,” BIG said.

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  1. Carol Anber

    What a beautiful precinct. Looks like NYC had the right idea years ago with many cities taking to the “central park” to break up the urban space.