Client : Town of Dijon
Architect planner : Wilmotte & Associés SA
Area : 6,000 m²
Assist the client in the redevelopment of the Place de la Libération, a key element in the enlargement of the pedestrian zone, located in front of the Palais des Ducs de Bourgogne.
The Place Royale, completed in c. 1689, was intended as an esplanade based on a simple geometric form. Its inception was by State decision in June 1685 at the same time as other famous royal squares of France. Throughout its history, the Place de la Liberation saw several transformations before becoming, until 2001, an area reserved for car parking. Since its installation in March 2001, the Municipality announced its intention to proceed with the development of several public urban spaces, first and foremost the Place de la Libération.
The first development phase carried out to this area, starting July 2001 and extended in 2002, made it possible, instead and in place of the central parking area, to quickly welcome café terraces, a flower market, and booksellers, as well as various special events (Christmas market, concerts, temporary garden, etc.) The square's rate of public frequentation confirmed the need for restructuring and led to consideration of a development project more in keeping with its prestigious environment, and which would offer enlarged pedestrian areas.
The Place de la Libération, designed as a royal square in the 17th century by Jules Hardouin Mansart, is located in the heart of the historic town, and offers a perfect setting for the Palais des Ducs de Bourgogne. Located in front of the Town Hall, at the corner of Rue de la Liberté, Rue Rameau, Rue des Bons-Enfants, Rue du Palais, and Rue Vauban, it is a strategic part of urban life. The Place de la Libération stands on archaeological remains; it was not possible to create a planted area and the choice of stone and water seemed an obvious solution. The intervention by the Wilmotte Associés SA at Place de la Libération aimed to give coherence to the entire space by unifying the ground surface from facade to facade. The paving finish chosen for this was a limestone from Burgundy, pale beige in colour to harmonise with the materials of the existing facades. Only clever tiling on the ground differentiates and identifies the various uses. In order to free up the fronts of the buildings, the roads were re-aligned towards the interior of the square. At street level, passers-by have the use of a three-metre-wide pavement, providing better circulation and freeing up shop windows. Only public transport continues to be allowed to follow the edge of the square on the town hall side. Within this semicircle, car parking was removed in front of the café-restaurant terraces: these are punctuated regularly by pathways that enable free pedestrian circulation between the building frontages and centre of the square which, thus freed up, allows for an artistic intervention that rediscovers the traces of old lanes that were lost during the royal square's construction. Animation is provided at the centre of the square by three luminous 'rifts' – fountains, whose design is based on the layout of adjacent streets. The architects imagined them as sculptures discreetly positioned on the site. The introduction of water in an area where it is hot in summer brings a touch of freshness, and its murmuring reduces ambient noise, especially that of buses. These rifts were covered by glass panes, from which jets of water occasionally emerge at ground level. This levelled-out arrangement means that, by turning off the fountain mechanisms, the entire central area of the square can be used for the smooth running of the usual events that the town of Dijon is familiar with (shows, markets, etc.).