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Architect car parks and by car Simone?

@Cyrille Weiner

The car park is part of our lives to such an extent that architects are still building large ones, sometimes very beautiful ones, all over France. Clear buildings made to last. Urban planning dedicated to the car until 2070, a fatality? What if it really depended on the car more than on the garage?

On a beautiful spring day, we had to get up early, as always when it comes to mountains, to discover with Isabel Hérault the car park delivered a few weeks earlier, in Chambéry (Savoie), by the agency Hérault Arnod, a courtesy visit in short.

The subject is interesting. The issue of parking, especially in the city center, is controversial today. The Hérault-Arnod project has not escaped this and symbolizes current debates and social issues. “The appeals were very tense, ‘No to Parking’ became a subject in the electoral campaign “recalls Isabel Hérault. After the municipal elections, the PS and the Greens arrived at the town hall and stopped the project, which was already on the third floor…

In Chambéry, everyone agrees that there is a real need to ” treat ” the car. If Grenoble, lower in the valley is paved with mountains, as the poet says, Chambéry, on the heights, is covered with cars. This is easily explained since no one descends the mountain on horseback anymore. Knowing that there is never a good place in the constituted city to put a new car park, how to give it an urban vocation and try through it to restore quality to the city center? Hence the importance of architects no doubt…

In short, in Chambéry, the new elected officials stopped the construction site, organized a citizen consultation, asked for images according to three scenarios: the top floors transformed into a public space; stopping the three-story project; the original project.

There were two public meetings. The architect, originally from Bourg-d’Oisans (Isère), in the mountains therefore, but now Parisian where she travels by bicycle and public transport, to point out the hypocrisy of her interlocutors who all came… by car! ” I decided to defend the project, to explain it to pissed off people, and it didn’t go so badly she says today.

The architects of Chambéry were very nice and supported me, the CAUE organized a site visit for everyone. The Liberated Dauphiné has written rather laudatory articles. All of this defused the bombs and, in the end, we did the project as planned “, welcomes Isabel Hérault.

Notwithstanding that the stoppage of the site for several months undoubtedly cost ” crazy dough to local taxpayers, the car park and its Belvedere are today a work of art, at least in Chambéry a contemporary marker, which is undoubtedly valid, beyond their intrinsic aesthetic qualities, for all major car parks.

In fact, parking lots are plentiful. To speak only of the last ones that I have seen pass in barely three years: Neustria relay car park to the south-east of Nantes (Loire-Atlantique); Parking silo at the Sens hospital (Yonne), designed by the Patriarche agency; Shared car park in Paris-Saclay delivered by GaP Architectes (this work is part of a larger real estate complex totaling 75,000 m² SDP of home ownership housing, student housing, social housing and shops. In short, some consider that many of these people will come by car). Matabiau Ramblas car park in Toulouse (Haute-Garonne), by Taillandier Architectes Associés (TAA), delivered in 2020 in the upper part of the Jean Jaurès alleys, the Toulouse Champs-Elysées, 400 spaces in infrastructure above the metro tunnel. Or, still in Toulouse, from the same agency, the “Marché Parking” Victor Hugo, built by the architect Pierre Laffitte at the end of the 1950s not far from the Place du Capitole and renovated in 2019.

I am still thinking of the K Architecture car park on Ile-Saint-Denis (Seine-Saint-Denis), on the edge of a new district which is therefore practiced on foot, or even the one just delivered in Bordeaux (Gironde) by Ferrier Marchetti Studio on the wet docks.

This list is obviously not exhaustive, everyone has seen a new car park built near their home. All are justified, with more or less good faith of course, and all more or less well drawn, but all are the result of urban thinking that involves the long term. Thought more or less accomplished elsewhere; yet the city of Chambéry must now eliminate the existing ground car parks if things are to improve. Otherwise, one would have to imagine that project owners would spend 10 to 20 M€ without thinking about it any more, and without knowing that they are committing their city and its operation for 50 years? There are still not only neuneus or corrupt among the elected officials and the promoters of car parks!

Admittedly, the question of the car in the city undoubtedly requires differentiated solutions depending on whether it is posed in Chambéry or in Paris. But it is enough to pass the Paris ring road, and more generally that of the metropolises, to be convinced that the car still has many years ahead of it, quite simply because a means of transport is absolutely necessary for man today. The car has been accessible and democratized for 60 years, it will take at least as much to find an alternative. In the meantime, it is therefore obviously a question of building the most ecological car parks possible and not of prohibiting the car.

This is why the speech of the candidate Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris, on the urban forests and the existential enemy car, hardly resonated in the country, neither in the forest mountains nor in the cereal campaigns. So much so that it only attracted 1.75% of French people, 2.25% in Paris.

However, the muddy 4X4 with the bull bar, in Chambéry, is easy to understand. On the other hand, the brand new 4X4 with the bullbar in the 8th arrondissement in Paris, with its nickel Crit’air sticker because it carries a ton of electric batteries, that defies the imagination, even the most cynical. Imbecility and m’as-tu-vuisme should have consequences for their authors since they have catastrophic consequences for the planet.

In reality, the subject is not whether or not we need cars but which car we want. This is what will condition our lifestyles, our cities, our car parks and (in part) our future. The electric car whose ‘corporate’ and governmental communication at bay is boring us? Let’s face it, it’s madness.

How to produce all this necessary electricity without any more coal or oil or gas or other fossil energies of which we KNOW that they are not lacking – the new projects are counted in billions of tons of CO² – but lead us to ruin, if not to destruction? annihilation? With nuclear power and the 14 new EPRs promised by Emmanuel Macron, green candidate during the second round of the presidential election?

It’s nerd but, among the reasons that invite caution, a nuclear reactor, a fortiori an EPR, must be refreshed, most often with water. Today, at the exit of the Chinon power station, the Loire has gained a few degrees. Add new EPRs on the line, global warming and drought – which is already raging today in May 2022 around Chinon – and the Loire will soon have become so hot that it will serve as a biodiversity reserve for exotic fish. And, while waiting for these EPRs planned for Saint Glinglin, consider today power cuts in the event of high temperatures or extreme cold that are now inevitable.

Meanwhile, the country is constantly building increasingly heavy cars, because of green batteries, on the pretext that they are electric and stuffed with rare earths. The other side of the coin is that with all this almost free electricity – 14 EPR realize my brave lady and my brave gentleman – it will soon be necessary to be frugal well as it is necessary to choose between the autonomous electric car or the air conditioner and choose its schedules of power cuts in advance on the Internet.

The autonomous car clad in overpriced electronics? Really, if the driver – ha what a word, a driver, someone who drives and is responsible for themselves – is unable to park without the digital aid of their iodine display from the planet Zorg at a phenomenal price because connected to fifty satellites and beep beeps so loud that they give him the impression of being blind in the land of the blind, well this driver has nothing to do at the wheel of a car!

Solutions exist, however, here is one, which we have already mentioned*: for Paris, for example, all Anne Hidalgo has to do is ban all cars UNDER 25 or 30 years old and the problem is solved. And how! Yes, ban NEW cars in the city!

Let’s see. With such a rule, Paris intramural will be rid tomorrow of traffic jams and its pollution because cars over twenty or twenty-five years old, there are not that many left in circulation. Above all, which is rare being expensive, these old vehicles would become for the rich, overnight so to speak, a commodity quickly sought after assiduously. The poor, who own them, would then get an excellent price from their old funds, enough to buy themselves, even if they cost a fortune, a new hybrid or electric or hydrogen car, in any case much less polluting than the current one to make those long commutes from suburb to suburb. With this system of redistribution, it would no longer be a trickle from the rich city center to the poor suburbs but a flood of cash! The rich will even be able, which the poor do not dare, to brag about their old low-carbon tire: indeed, the longer the use lasts, the better the carbon footprint. It would be an ecological incentive for everyone to keep their car.

Here is another one since it is undoubtedly necessary to save the French automobile industry. Since in France we like standards, imagine that each new passenger car put on the market in this country must not weigh more than a 4L or a 2CV circa 1960 and be as energy efficient (in production and operation) while transporting four people, a dog and luggage from Paris to Dakar and back.

In fact, on our well-paved and perfectly signposted roads, there is no need for rare earths or satellite assistance. Or extravagant speed for that matter, each new car on the territory will also be restricted to 130km, including those of show-offs ready to pay dearly for the me-you-vuism. Despite, or thanks to, this constraint, car manufacturers will I am sure be able to show imagination and innovation in frugality in the service of their well-understood interest if they are certain of being able to continue to build cars for another 60 years. This is the case, there are already parking lots.

Christophe Leray

*See our editorial For Paris, a city of history, you need an arrow

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