The city of Sion wishes to transform an area for the most part dedicated to the industrial sector into a new district intermingling shops, offices, small-scale industry, residential buildings, lush greenery, light forms of transport, and renewable energy sources. The design of the new district rises to the challenge of further developing Sion, while simultaneously bringing landscape back into its center.
Extending over sixty hectares, the site allocated for the new Ronquoz district is situated between a railroad network and the Rhône River. The full transformation of the area will unfold over a period of at least thirty odd years. Taking this into consideration, the project has sought to lay out the way and means of its evolution, rather than seeking to formalize and set in stone what could only be its hypothetical result in the long term. The challenge therefore lies in transforming the site gradually and in a consistent fashion. How to establish and strengthen the district's new identity from the start? How to support its coherent development while allowing it to adjust to the vagaries of time?
For a long process such as this, urbanistic principles veer away from the rigid use of a predefined geometry. The creation of a landscape linked to a dens built-up area allows the redevelopment of the site to begin in the immediate, as well as to help structure the future district going forward.
The primary defining landscape element of Ronquoz is a wooded belt or strip of land running the whole length of the site from east to west. Tree-lined and dedicated to pedestrians and light forms of transport, the belt meanders its way across the district staying within its delineated space. Set up at low cost, it immediately imparts an identity to the neighborhood, creating as well a physical link between the existing city and the larger landscape that surrounds.
The architects Herzog & de Meuron have chosen a density for the project favoring a small building typology over that of individual homes. As they develop in parallel to the railway tracks and the highway, the newly built volumes will also be following the direction of the valley, while leaving in their middle substantial space for landscape. Building densely and setting up large free spaces are interdependent and complementary choices. The added value generated by building densification can directly result in the creation of gardens and squares, along with their ability to be successfully maintained, in addition to lowering the costs of ground-floor rental space and shared building amenities. In other words, added value to the community.
Over time, a succession of newly created parks will attach themselves to the wooded strip of land from either side. This park chain will be shaped by the various property conditions, flexibly adapting itself as the continual process of transformation unfolds. The process will take place in transitional and logical steps: for each new neighborhood, a new park.
Both to the north and south of the wooded strip, new neighborhoods, made up of a certain number of buildings and a park positioning itself back towards the center, will slowly emerge. In each instance, the wooded strip will function in joining the park to its already created free green spaces. Such a gradual transformation will allow nature to more indelibly reclaim the old industrial sector. Included within the park chain, Place de la Gare and Place du Rhône connect the new Ronquoz district with the rest of Sion.
City of Sion
MDP Michel Desvigne Paysagiste
Herzog & de Meuron (lead consultant)