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Author(s): Agence Laure Planchais

Former paperworks of Vallée

Located in Brittany, the Vallée paper mills, established in 1855, were gradually built in the Léguer valley; the river that supplied the business with water and electricity. The plant closed in 1965 but the site kept a strong social and emotional charge from its past within the local rural context. The land on which the plant was built was bought by two village communities in the 1990s. Their program was to clean the site and make it safe.

An observation of the site helped assess the attachment of the old plant workers, including some who still came daily to visit their plant despite forty years of abandonment. We decided to go beyond the technical order to restore the strong site’s poetic and emotional charge.

The presence of water – which was the source of the paper mill installation – led to the creation of water works. The project reveals this domestication of water, the size of the former plant’s footprint, and the sculptural dimension of the ruins that we staged.

The project allows a reading of the relationship between the complex topography of the site and the general topography of the valley: platforms, balconies over the water, panoramic viewpoints help embrace the site with the gaze.

The site, NATURA 2000 certified, was helped and enriched by the project which was part of a strong environmental approach: Recycling of demolition waste on the site and reuse of the technical components of the old plant, Revitalisation work on the banks, forest plantings, sewn with seeds from the site, and creation of an experimental garden on the natural dynamics of uncultivated fields. Creation of bat habitats in the basement of the plant.

On some facades, we kept the pre-existing graffiti, which added to the uniqueness of the site. Moreover, the project provides various reception infrastructures for artistic events (terraces, stage area, pedestals for sculptures) with the goal of giving a second life to the site.

Since then, the site has held artistic and cultural events each year. It is also referenced in several French tour guides on Brittany.

Function : Decontamination and safe setting of a former industrial site