Finally, some uncontroversial news over at MVRDV: The gaffe-prone Dutch architects have announced plans to transform 35 hectares of disused warehouses, barracks, and rail embankments in Bordeaux, France, into a thriving “zero energy” neighborhood.
Bastide Niel will include 3,200 new homes; more than 500,000 square feet of retail and offices; schools; day care centers; a skate park; and a whopping 161,500 square feet dedicated to what the press release describes somewhat cryptically as “crafts” (uh, for the world’s largest knitting circle?).
Needless to say, the scope of this thing is astounding–especially for a city in Europe, where high density, copious historic architecture, and stringent zoning regulations often conspire against ambitious development. MVRDV’s concept was perhaps more appealing to the client than most for its likeness to Bordeaux’s quaint city center of yore. Historic structures will be preserved. Intimate, narrow streets–most of them one way–will vein out over 144 city blocks. And cars, public transit vehicles, bikes, and pedestrians will share the roads equally.
But the really impressive part here is the energy-consumption target. Nowadays, you pretty much can’t announce a new urban plan without throwing around the word “green.” It’s the only way to sell an environmentally minded public on new real estate which is, fundamentally, not green, and the word is vague enough to free developers to commit all sorts of ecological sins without making bald-faced liars of them.
“Zero energy,” on the other hand, means something very specific. To reach that goal, the architects want to build a geothermal well that pumps heat from more than half a mile beneath the earth’s surface. They also want to mount solar panels on building roofs and south-facing facades to generate electricity. (Building-height and -depth restrictions will ensure that the solar panels actually get the sunlight they need.) At the moment, though, that’s about as specific as the eco-plans get. Not to worry. MVRDV has plenty of time to hammer out details: The first phase of Bastide Niel won’t get underway until 2014.
[Images courtesy of MVRDV]