Riverside square of La Mailleraye-sur-Seine

Agence Babylone: La Mailleraye-sur-Seine is a village located along the banks of the Seine in the Seine-Maritime department, 20km west of Rouen. It has the highest population in the “Presqu’île de Brotonne” area (2083 inhabitants, or Maillochiens, as they are known). It is also one of the most expansive in France, extending over a surface area of 4,458 hectares of which more than 3,000 consist of forest, incorporating more than half of the public protected forest area of Brotonne. Although more than ¾ of the centre of La Mailleraye was destroyed during World War II, the rich historical past of this peaceful place still lives on in the form of numerous buildings that bear witness to its glorious former days. Sadly, however, the castle (the main building that symbolised this magnificent past) disappeared almost completely in 1859 and all that remains is the seigneurial chapel, which is visible along the Seine.

La Mailleraye-sur-Seine forms part of the Seine Regional Natural Park (Parc Naturel Régional des Boucles de la Seine Normande) and belongs to the municipality community of Caux Vallée de Seine. In 1977, when the Brotonne bridge was constructed, the final ferry linking La Mailleraye with the right bank of the Seine was definitively retired. This change, in addition to the confinement of the river in 1948, has interfered with the way the village functions with regard to the Seine and has left the embankment without any clear vocation. For this reason, La Mailleraye sur Seine launched a redevelopment project for the centre of the village in 2009, with a particular focus on the renovation of the river banks.

Commission and objectives

The commission focuses on the redevelopment of the public spaces in the centre of the village of La Mailleraye-sur-Seine (square, road, parking, river banks), with the aim of creating a new high-quality space for the residents and making the village more attractive to tourists, in connection with the Seine and the activities within the village linked with the river.

The project

The central focus of this project is the relationship of the village with water: the water of the neighbouring Seine, of course, but also the water that comes from the sky, which is of particular importance. The project is aimed at recreating a strong link between the village and the natural environment of the Seine. A series of terraces descend progressively towards the water, mingling an urban flair with elements of the river ecosystem. An innovative, rustic rainwater purification system, which relies on the use of plants (phytoremediation), has been integrated into the road and the embankment, discharging perfectly clean water into the river.

Highlighting the relationship with the river

The most distinctive feature of La Mailleraye is its position along the Seine, with an urban structure that is anchored solidly to the river. Above all, it is a river village and, although this vocation may have lost something of its meaning and become less obvious in recent years, the project is aimed at restoring and magnifying this relationship. As part of the project, a series of spaces between the road and the river bank will be redeveloped, descending progressively towards the river and highlighting it as a feature of the village. These are living spaces and spaces for activity positioned at varying heights, which gently descend to the level of the water. This series of platforms ends in a large outdoor amphitheatre, where one can sit and take in the view of the Seine, the constant activity on the river and the opposite bank. This area is also an open space, which can be used for the numerous events organised in the village. The ramps within the amphitheatre have been designed specifically to make it accessible to persons with reduced mobility and café terraces are included on the higher levels.

Incorporating the river ecosystem into the village

La Mailleraye is located at the meeting point between town and nature: the urban left bank faces onto a completely wooded bank, with a wild appearance. The project does not seek to emphasise this contrast, but rather to soften it, so as to incorporate the world of the river into the village: the water, the characteristic vegetation and the materials transported by the river recolonize the left bank and permeate the village. The embankment has also been replanted with water and river plants. Several ponds have been added to the square and along the road and planted with wetland perennials, shrubs and trees.

Managing and purifying water in a natural, playful manner

The special focus of this project on the topic of water in general is reflected in particular in the management of the river water on the site. Runoff water is passed through a highly natural alternative, rustic and playful treatment system. Rainwater forms an integral part of the spatial element of the project; it is conserved in decorative, planted ponds and reservoir ponds, which also serve to remove pollutants. Water is collected along the road through a network of small vegetated ponds and then channelled down to the square, where a series of planted ponds store it and purify it by means of phytoremediation. A clean, regulated flow of water is then discharged into the Seine. This system is also used to supply a water feature in the village. The frequent rainfall in the region allows for a regular, continuous supply of water to the ponds. The maintenance required for this simple, autonomous process, which is powered by gravity, has been kept very basic: maintenance of the planted sections, regular cleaning and clearing of sediment sludge every 2-3 years. This innovative, experimental approach was facilitated through support from experts in the areas of phytoremediation and hydraulics and was inspected by the local water policy body.

Rainwater

Collection of runoff water
Open-air water pipes
Collection and phytoremediation ponds
Reservoir and phytoremediation pond
Water feature supplied with runoff water
Phytoremediation and decorative pond
Discharge of overflow into the Seine as a regulated flow
Planted pond for collecting runoff water
Water feature without fountain
Powered entirely by gravity
Cascading ponds leading towards the Seine

Project: Riverside square of La Mailleraye-sur-Seine
Completed: July 2014
Landscape Architect: Agence Babylone

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