@Michel Desvigne Paysagiste
Michel Desvigne is a landscape architect internationally renowned for his rigorous and contemporary designs and for the originality and relevance of his research work. He has developed projects in more than twenty-five countries, where his work helps in highlighting the landscapes and rendering them visible, in understanding the mechanisms at work giving them form, and in acting upon these mechanisms in order to transform the landscapes and imbue them with meaning. Michel Desvigne has collaborated, in some cases for more than twenty years, with many internationally renowned architects, including Renzo Piano, Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, Rem Koolhaas, and Jean Nouvel.
His research and landscaping projects have been recognized by several important national and international awards. In 2011, France’s Grand Prize for Urbanism rewarded his contribution to and reflection on the city and larger territory.
The renovation of the Old Port of Marseille was awarded the European Prize for Urban Public Space in 2014. More recently, the project developed for the Detroit East Riverfront Framework Plan (with SOM) was awarded the National Honor Award for Urban Design (2019) by the American Institute of Architects (AIA).
In line with his research and teaching, he has served as president of the board of directors of the National School for Landscape Architecture in Versailles (ENSP) since 2008. As a visiting professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and having worked on numerous projects in the United States, Michel Desvigne has been able to play a novel role as a “smuggler” of ideas and practices between European and North American urban cultures. His work has been the subject of several monographs, including the recently published: Transforming landscapes, Michel Desvigne Paysagiste (Birkhäuser, 2020).
Saint Louis Art Museum
The Saint Louis Art Museum, located in the heart of Forest Park, is in the process of extension. The East Building designed by David Chipperfield introduces a new dimension by creating a kind of abstract pedestal in the historic building. The sculpture garden extends this pedestal and introduces an intermediate scale between the museum and the vast landscape. The expansion of the St. Louis Art Museum and the garden are linked and combined to form a single layer. The sculpture garden and the entrance court are parts of this layer. Although their functions differ, they have a common language. From the park point of view, this layer will appear as a grove with informal limits, consistent with the nineteenth century landscape design of Forest Park. While approaching the building, this plant massing is gradually ordered into geometrical blocks to form regular outdoor rooms that extend the museum architecture of the nineteenth century to the outside. Thus, when the trees have grown, a visitor that will explore this grove quietly organized in lines, will discover unexpected formal clearings. This is a forest sculpted into a set of outdoor rooms where pieces of art are installed. These rooms are not enclosed. They appear continuously one after the other in a game of masses and voids, orchestrating a set of concrete pedestals. These pedestals are architectural components of the garden that define places and uses, acting as large furniture items. Naturally, they are also pedestals for sculptures.
Trees are selected for their ability to yeld a strong forested character and to be geometrically laid out. Like the carved afforestation in classic French gardens, there are hundreds of hornbeams, river birches, white birches, and some serviceberries laid out in dense orthogonal grids that extend the building structure.
Located near the Tokyo Imperial Palace, the new Otemachi tower is tucked into a kind of forest measuring thirty-six hundred square meters, directly connected with Otemachi station and its five metro lines. The landscape is neither a square nor a park. Through its vegetation, its topography, and the presence of water, the forest was conceived in a sufficiently dense and lush manner to lessen the urban heat island phenomenon in this area in the heart of the city. Furthermore, trees are interspersed along the vast mineral surfaces in order to provide comfort and warmth to the flow of pedestrian urban traffic. The significant amount of activity taking place on Naka-dori street passes through the forest before spreading out into the surrounding neighborhoods.
The forest constitutes a key element within the network of many small gardens that cover the city. Because each of these gardens has an official status, they are all maintained, and constantly conjure up the presence of nature in the city. The project has the ambition of providing an urban ecosystem directly linked with the regeneration of the city. Following research into which flora and fauna would be suitable for the site’s environment, and repeated exchanges with botanists, we selected a large diversity of plants, of large tress (including the Akagashi tree, a Japanese variety of green oak), and of plant ground cover of varying size and age.
An innovative “pre-forest” approach allowed for the preparation and adaptation of numerous plant strata outside of the city, during several years before their actual establishment on site. Following its inauguration in 2013, the urban forest immediately had an impact through the force of its presence.
Draï Eechelen Park
Draï Eechelen Park is located some six hundred meters from the urban center of the city of Luxembourg as the crow flies. The heights of the park, overlooking deep valleys, were initially created by the military engineer Vauban, and have over the years undergone successive reinforcements and transformations, creating today a stunning example of three centuries of military engineering. Beginning in the 1990s, the site was the subject of a cultural development program that sought to renovate and highlight its value as part of the historical heritage. In 2006, the MUDAM was inaugurated, the Grand Duke Jean Museum of Modern Art, designed by Ieoh Ming Pei.
The project is distinguished by its minimalist intervention, inspired by the very specific topography of the site. Grading was carefully defined in order to create a new dialogue between the contemporary circumstances and the archeological remains. Located in the heart of the historical configuration, the clearing reacquired its distant and wide visibility, visible now even from the old city. The contours of the park were redesigned through a precise reworking of the edges. Large solitary trees here and there dominate the plain.
Access to the park is provided by a large mineral ramp heavily planted, creating an intimate link between Europe Square and the wooded surroundings. Its paving using grassed joins appears not so much as a surfacing but as a landscape. The large semi-urban square in front of MUDAM, where pine and beech trees are judiciously arranged, is a pleasant location whose layout also makes possible the organization of all kinds of events. It spreads over about four thousand square meters on either side of the museum’s axis.
The arrangements and interventions, through their simplicity, facilitate the legibility of the site despite its great complexity. What has been carried out remains unseen.