Bouriette & Vaconsin — Using Landscape to Shape Architecture

Event: Landscape in the City, part of Urban Design Week 2011
Location: Center for Architecture, 09.19.11
Speakers: Marion Vaconsin & Christophe Bouriette — French Landscape Designers, Atelier Bouriette & Vaconsin
Organizers: Center for Architecture; Cultural Services of the French Embassy; NYASLA

The approach of French landscape designer Marion Vaconsin and associate architect Christophe Bouriette — founders of Atelier Bouriette & Vaconsin — acknowledges the fragility of the natural landscape. Though their interventions are often subtle, they prove transformative in rural and urban settings alike.

The duo designed an extension to the Biganos Cemetery, a traditional French graveyard in the countryside, which reflects the shifting cultural preferences towards cremation. Bouriette and Vaconsin created a linear procession, defined by a stone platform with flower niches, flanked by a water path along which families and friends gather to celebrate the life of their loved ones while dispersing the ashes.

“In France, it is starting to become important to rescue the landscape,” noted Bouriette, and when designing within the urban context of Bordeaux, they aim to invite nature into the city. Bordeaux is divided both by class and by its hilly topography; but as an asset, the city contains 400 hectares (988 acres) of preserved natural landscape near its center. Bouriette and Vaconsin are involved in the transformation of this green space into an urban park, Parc des Coteaux. They carved out a pathway with a minimalist approach that preserves nature while allowing people to experience the landscape, linking several communities and neighborhoods.

On abandoned urban sites, subtlety isn’t exactly an option: nature must be reconstructed. Bouriette and Vaconsin imagined an entire new neighborhood block for La Ramade as part of the revitalization of a social housing complex in Bordeaux, complete with new vegetation and paving that links it to local transit. “Typically, the design process starts at the urban level; then the architecture is created; and landscape is the third consideration,” Bouriette explained. “Instead, we start with the landscape, establish a framework, and then arrive at the architecture.”