Sustainable Cities Collective has re-launched as Smart Cities Dive! Click here to learn more!

Contemporary Architecture for Place Saint-Michel in Rennes, Brittany, France

The historic building in Place Saint-Michel in Rennes, France

The consequences of the fire of June 21, 2010, during the Fête de la Musique, are still visible. But not for much longer: a new construction project of 15 to 20 housing units and a future business space of 150m2 are planned for the same location.

The reconstruction has taken some time owing to the site's layout. Six buildings were affected by the fire. Many co-owners were involved, causing the financing to be very complex. The city of Rennes has initiated proceedings so that Territoires – the public planners for the project – can repurchase the different plots. "The acquisitions are practically finished," explains Nathalie Gallet, Head of the Centre Ancien (Old Downtown) project at Territoires. "A contest for architects and developers was launched, and the winner will be chosen before this summer," adds Gallet.

Historic buildings on Rue Saint-Michel in Rennes, France

A Safeguarded Area

Another particularity of the site is that the buildings are in the heart of a safeguarded area. The Architecte des Bâtiments, a body of urban planners and architects serving the French government, must give their consent for each project. A historic building located on the corner of Rue Saint-Michel and the Place Saint-Michel will be reconstructed as to be identical to its original state, with the same seventeenth-century materials, because it was not directly affected by the fire.

For the other six buildings in question, things will take a different course. The contest specifies that the architects participating must respect the original conformity and height of the protected building, and must follow strict fire protection rules. "The future construction must respect the neighboring building," especially the timber frame.

A New Square

The appearance of the Place Saint-Michel is therefore heading towards change in the coming years. Businesses will reopen on the ground level. The future buyers are still not known, but it seems that there will not be any bars appearing because the city wants to reduce their concentration in the Saint-Michel area.

Should regulations and requirements be placed on the design of contemporary buildings located near historic sites, or should greater freedom be allowed?

Original article, originally published in French, here.

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.