Beyond Paris [suite]: a New Campus for the University of Paris South XI at Saclay

The future development of the Paris metropolitan region beyond the present political and physical boundary of the city continues to be a national priority, with the presentation of the research and proposals of ten international teams in the spring of 2009. Jean Nouvel, Richard Rogers, and MVRDV were among those whose teams conducted broad based studies and proposed visions for a more integrated urban area. Among the priorities for the growth of the metropolitan area is the expansion of the university system to achieve international competitiveness known as \”Operation Campus.\” A new campus for the social sciences in Aubervilliers on the northern edge of the city was the focus of our studio in the spring of 2009. Building on analyses of the region and morphologies of campus and open space in that studio, this semester we intend to look at the proposal for a new science campus on the Saclay plateau to the southwest of the city. The studio will cross disciplines to generate a landscape, infrastructure, and urban design framework for the campus and its district, as well as the architectural development of a principal building. Site and ProgramLocated approximately 20km from the center of Paris, and connected by the RER commuter rail line, the Saclay plateau is a large territory of 7700 hectares with some 27 communes or towns, 320,000 inhabitants and significant agricultural production. At an elevation of 150m, it is a belvedere, with broad visual perspectives and wooded slopes. Before the end of the 17th century, the plateau was a vast swampy area, and when Louis XIV occupied the Chateau of Versailles in 1670, the engineer Thomas Gobert constructed a series of hydraulic systems to bring water to the fountains and parks designed by Le Notre. The result was a system of channels, viaducts, water towers, and reservoirs, many of which exist today, which drained the swamps and created a rich agricultural area. The steep slopes of the plateau shaped development with towns and rail lines in the low perimeter around the plateau. In the 1950???s the plateau itself began to be developed first for defense industries, and later technical universities and research institutes. Today the plateau is home to the largest agglomeration of science and technology education, research, and hi-tech industries in the region. Because these entities are widely scattered across the plateau, the intention of the future development is to create a dense cluster of facilities together with a community to support them at the southern end of the plateau. The University of Paris South XI, now located below the plateau, will be relocated as the centerpiece of the new cluster adjacent to the Polytechnique (Institute of Technology). The intention is to create the kind of synergy which exists in the MIT/Kendall Square area, and Silicon Valley to make the Saclay plateau an international hub for the knowledge economy.The rebuilding of the university on the plateau will occur over a period of 15 years, with the installation of the departments of biology, chemistry, and pharmacy by 2015. The first phase building will be approximately 140,000 square meters, nearly doubling with the addition of physics, management economics, and sports technology in subsequent years. The first phase will include classrooms, laboratories, and research and administrative offices as well as a central library and auditorium. Proposals for the surrounding town development as well as retained agricultural areas will be part of the program. A new light rail system linking the plateau to existing RER stations at its perimeter is planned for the same time frame. The architecture, landscape, and urbanism of this project will be inspired by the results of the international consultation \”Grand Pari de l\’Agglomeration Parisienne\” and aspire to a strong physical and tectonic identity to define the territory.Integrated Studio and Research</b