Paris-Saclay, Campus sud

Plateau de Saclay, Essonne, France

Paris-Saclay, Campus sud

Plateau de Saclay, Essonne, France


South Campus will spread south across the Saclay plateau, between the École polytechnique and the CEA (Atomic and Alternative Energy Commission) designed by Auguste Perret in 1958. The challenge lies in moving past the current stage of an area made up of industrial-university activities dotted with large closed off access points, to an authentic neighborhood containing residents, shared facilities, and businesses. The campus-city, located at the heart of the Paris-Saclay cluster, should as well allow for the identification of those elements relating exclusively to the university campus itself. By 2025, this emblematic complex will welcome 20,000 teacher-researchers, 30,000 students, 20,000 in staff, and around 15,000 residents.

An archipelago landscape, support for the compact neighborhoods of the campus-city
The scale here is unusual, imposed by the placement of the existing establishments across a wide and dispersed area. South Campus spreads across seven kilometers (equivalent to the distance from the Louvre to the outer Parisian La Défense district), and over six hundred hectares.

The scale of the project requires a compactness in the developed areas. It would be illusory to imagine that an urban continuity lacking a certain density could create a qualitative urban whole. Only the organization of the landscape in an archipelago allows for the proper composition of such a vast space. Nine compact neighborhoods are thus gathered together in the interior of a “park-campus”. All of which are formed beginning from the existing built-up areas. The expansion of the wooded valleys and hillside landscape, along with the setting up of an extensive system of parks and public spaces, provides the physical setting necessary for the smooth functioning of the archipelago.

The issue of mobility is crucial. The various neighborhoods are to be connected in a rapid, fluid, and continuous way. The Greater Paris metro line 18 will have a double function: create a link between the various sites of the plateau, and connect the whole area with the rest of the Parisian metropolis.

Particular attention is given to the creation of a soft traffic network that is linked, readable, secure, and that facilitates nearby, shorter movement. With each neighborhood being itself of significant dimension, they are further divided into inhabited areas determined within the radius of a public transport stop, each of a scale traversable by foot or bicycle.

A compatible and simple road network for the different areas
The urban project is a project of transformation that begins from the already existing. The establishment of the various neighborhoods is structured around a regulating layout that functions in orienting and clarifying the progression of the project through the creation of a consistent logic in its roadways, buildings, and unique places. This general and generating framework imparts a large amount of flexibility to how the neighborhoods are set up. Such a framework adapts to the specific constraints of a particular site, and thus varies according to the neighborhood. It allows for the creation of urban blocks of various size, including large buildings for the moment standing alone, and takes into consideration buildings to be built in the future.

The edge between the city-campus and the agricultural expanse, ecological engineering at the service of the campus
The planning and development of the city-campus will not put into direct contact the new neighborhoods with the large agricultural expanses. A vast intermediary space, with a surface area comparable to the future constructed neighborhoods themselves, is planned for with a number of different functions. It will welcome shared ecological services (humid areas, management of biodiversity), technical and sporting facilities, recreational spaces, gardens, orchards, meadows, plant nurseries, agricultural activities (market gardening), and areas of land dedicated to agronomical research.

The chain of major places
“The chain of major places,” as defined by the urbanists Xaveer de Geyter and Floris Alkemade, is an essential aspect of the project. Its outline extends to a length of more than ten kilometers. This ensemble of public spaces is in some way the main support for the campus, around which different forms of urbanization can develop. The major places determine the centers of activity, being coupled with transport infrastructure.

The landscape of the major places is a collection of fundamental elements whose dimensions, between one and two kilometers, and whose orientations correspond to the scale of the various compact neighborhoods. They are surrounded by a considerable plant presence that places them in a significant manner within their landscape and built context. They function as invariable elements of stability and positioning, with dimensions larger than the most imposing buildings.

2009 to 2021
Urban strategies, Public spaces

Etablissement public d'aménagement Paris-Saclay (EPAPS)

Project Team:

MDP Michel Desvigne Paysagiste (lead consultant)
XDGA-FAA, Xaveer de Geyter, Floris Alkemade, Architects-urban planners


900 ha (2 224 acres)