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Throughout its history, Toulouse’s fortunes have been dictated by its geography. Isolation from the sea and major rail lines kept Toulouse on the sidelines of 19th century industrialisation. Yet this isolation sowed the seeds for its present-day prosperity. Today Toulouse is growing fast. People are flocking to the city from across France and beyond, attracted by the healthy economy and the Meditteranean climate.

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Ultimately, Toulouse’s success has and will continue to depend on its capacity to grasp the opportunities of its location and develop its qualities of place. The city fabric preserves a record of successive layers of urbanism, corresponding to a history of urban practices and ideologies. Likewise, the most recent layer of the city is a lens through which the currently prevailing attitudes to the city are revealed. The ocean of suburbia suggests a lassez-faire attitude towards urban creation. The morphology of Toulouse’s urban fabric reveals a patchwork condition similar to the agricultural landscape. This patchwork is combined with islands of large institutional program immersed in a more diffuse context. From these observations, the outline of an alternative approach begins to take shape…

Our proposal brings these elements together to define a clear and distinctive vision for the future development of the city, one that establishes new urban qualities that can augment Toulouse’s existing identity.

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We propose a scheme consisting of three main categories of intervention: VOIDS, POLES and GLYPHS. These correspond to places of intensity, vacancy, and connection across the territory of the city, determined by the transportation framework and natural systems within the urban area.

Overall, the strategy is based on moments and linkages, rather than totality and control. In this, it draws upon the insights of Situationist representations of the urban structure and experience. It augments, rather than replaces, the existing planning framework, in such a way that Toulouse’s urban identity can be grasped and focused.

Project: Toulouse Aerospace Campus
Practice: OMA – Office for Metropolitan Architecture
Client: Caisse d’Epargne Midi-Pyrénées Kaufman & Broad – Malardeau Veolia Vinci
Location: Toulouse, France
Year: 2006-2008
In collaboration with: Xaveer de Geyter Architects Michel Desvigne Paysagistes Puig Pujol Architectures Sutter Taillandier Architectes