From Mayol to Pipady
Toulon is strategically located on a naturally protected bay, an ideal base for the French Mediterranean naval fleet. The naval port also fulfills an important role in the maintenance of the ships, and as a result has an industrial feel. In contrast, the city and port are located in a beautiful natural environment with a Mediterranean and Provençal ecosystem. This landscape has a distinct identity, which is part of the intangible culture of Toulon through its special relationship with the sun, the wind, the rare presence of water and the hills.
In the current situation, only the old city center has a direct connection to the harbor front. Other parts of the city are closed off from the water by the (still) present harbor activities. In order to improve the relationship between the city and the bay and thus increasing the attractiveness for residents and visitors, a master plan has been made that provides for this.
The objective at the urban level is to connect the adjacent neighbourhoods to the waterfront and to expand the public space along the harbour front. The character, continuity, and dynamics of the port of Toulon must be maintained.
The master plan will be implemented in several parts. Mei architects and planners has created designs for site 3 and 4. Both plan areas have a strategic position between existing residential areas and the future development of the boulevard.
Site 3: A connecting icon for the city: transformation and extension of a characteristic 1970s building
The design aims to connect, create space, preserve existing characteristic elements, and provide the building with an expressive elevation with public terrace: a hotspot appropriate to the new zeitgeist, of which the inhabitants of Toulon can be proud.
On the first floor, space is created for public access. The building along the boulevard will be partly preserved and transformed, to preserve the expressive character of the existing 1970s architecture and reduce CO2 emissions. In the new building volumes, visual transparency is sought. A large canopy is placed as an additional volume on the existing building. This iconic canopy doubles the space and offers phenomenal views. The canopy provides a public shaded plaza on the coast and at the same time protects the large atrium from weather.
Program site 3
The building will have a mixed-use destination. In the heart of the building there will be a planted patio, which as a green oasis will offer thermal comfort to the future users. This interior landscape will be visible from the street.
Around the atrium, in the existing building, there will be offices and capsule hotels. On the first floor there will also be space for restaurants, bars, and stores, giving the area a lively and urban character. The canopy will house a 4-star hotel with suites and conference rooms. On the roof, a Mediterranean paseo will be developed, where Toulon residents can admire the view, meet each other, relax in the heart of cool spaces or on large sun terraces.
Site 4: Strategic densification and optimization of public space
The design will be part of the new promenade that will connect the Stade du Mayol to the cape of Pipady and connect to the beloved neighbourhood of Mourillon.
In the current situation, the area is occupied by the fire station and a parking lot. In the new plan, the existing fire station and parking lot make room for a series of strategically placed buildings both offices and residential. These are placed in such a way that views and daylight penetration of the existing residential buildings are respected. The plinths of the buildings contain an urban program. This creates a mixed and lively urban district in the immediate vicinity of the bay.
Program of site 4
The program of the new district will be a smart mix of working, living and public space, ensuring an optimal use of space. All buildings, existing and new, benefit from views of the bay and access to the landscaped terraces and communal gardens. Underground parking will be provided under the gardens.
The daycare center at the southern base is a “pivot” between the existing neighborhood, the promenade, and the garden. The flexible plots make the plan future-proof.
The average lifespan of this type of building in France is only 50 years. Mei’s plans for sites 3 and 4 are designed based on a flexible design, which prepares them for future adaptations to use, climate change and energy measures. This allows them to be adapted, for example, from residential project to office and vice versa, without the need for structural modifications. This makes the buildings longer-lasting and future-proof.
Large green oases make the area a comfortable living environment with a pleasant climate, even in summer, when temperatures can soar in Toulon. Green walls will have a semi-permeable coating, which is good for evaporation for plants and soil. The roofs will also have several layers of vegetation, and rainwater on the roofs will be collected and reused. The integration of green elements on the site helps to maintain biodiversity for plants and animals, and provides control over the (sometimes) powerful westerly winds. Research is underway to see how the wind can be used for natural ventilation, while minimizing disruption to the outdoor spaces, including balconies and accessible roofs.
This ambitious plan for Toulon will comply with the latest regulations on environmental quality and sustainability, and strives to minimize its ecological footprint. With innovative designs, as much energy as possible will be generated locally and renewably, such as solar power and thermal storage.