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Author(s): Territoires architectes, Maison de l'architecture de Franche Comté

In praise of space

The Jura mountain village of Sermange is wrapped around a wide grassy area, the Grand Pré (great field).

An empty space yet filled with past and future meanings and activities, the field is also a reminder of a natural environment: the springs that regularly soak the ground attest to an underlying nature that is still nearby.

One of them feeds the fountain-washing place just below, as is typical of villages in Franche-Comté. This aedicule is a precious piece of heritage for the residents, who often restore it during summer construction projects. The field is lined on its long side by the departmental road that crosses through the village. While it has no pavement, children use this path daily to get to the nearby primary school.

Lastly, a picnic area with a water source was requested to offer a stopping place for summer bicycle tourists following the route that passes through the village.

In the end, resolving all these restrictions and desires magnified the emptiness of the great field.

The sketch-consultation with the residents helped design a basis for writing grant applications. During these sessions, a great deal of time was spent discussing the intended purpose of the site: its uses, its sharing, and lastly, the question of empty space versus the temptation to rapidly fill it by repeating models used here and there.

The project increased the density of the edges of the field to better delineate its limits by adding uses to it: paths, pond-bank linked to the fountain-washing station, picnic area and water source. Above all, the open space of the Grand Pré is not empty of uses: the ground and thicker border on its south end allow the transport of equipment to set up a dance floor, carousel, outdoor cinema, etc.

This light work helped establish the picnic area and bank near the washing station. The dimensions were based on those of the village’s tables, which can complete the system during festivals, or municipal council meetings!

The long untreated chestnut planking, the other edge of the wide open space, plays with the topography by barely touching the field or clearly detaching from it. This play on elevations allows for some nice variations in the path, and transforms the school children’s path into a happy journey.

Since completion, the field has been the site of festivals and many gatherings. Redefining the limits of the space now gives the site greater significance.