The Grand Paris initiative inspires a project for Greater Moscow : N° 2, January 2013

Reviving the maritime and port economy and making Paris a “global city”, by giving it access to the sea via Rouen and Le Havre – this is the aim of the Grand Paris Seine axis project directed by architect Antoine Grumbach, who has also, with his partner Jean-Michel Wilmotte, won the international bid for the development of Greater Moscow. With the estuary of the Seine and its extensive seaboard, the port of Le Havre is Europe’s principal river outlet to the Atlantic. Le Havre will thus be able to transform Grand Paris into a genuine maritime metropolis. This project to reshape the urban, social and economic geography of a vast region, with a sizeable budget, is unprecedented.


Out of the ten international projects proposed for Grand Paris, only the architect and town planner Antoine Grumbach opted, with his “Seine Métropole” project, to make the Seine the main focus for the development of Paris and its region towards Le Havre and its sea coast. “85% of international trade is carried out by sea. The role of ports is a major factor in an economy that is becoming globalised,” explains Antoine Rufenacht, former mayor of Le Havre and Commissioner-General for the Development of the Seine Valley.

All major metropolises have a port. The aim is therefore to make Le Havre, France’s second port and Europe’s fifth, the maritime window of Grand Paris to open it up to Europe at a time when the increase in freight caused by the globalisation of the economy offers significant prospects for development.

Two hours by road from the Champs Élysées, the port of Le Havre, France’s leading foreign trade port, is linked directly to the capital by the A13 motorway. The dynamism of Paris makes it one of the continent’s leading economic centres. Irrigated by the waterway of the Seine, this vast, densely industrialised region is home to a huge number of businesses boasting their own unique expertise. Brought together under the umbrella of the Haropa Economic Interest Group, the ports of Le Havre, Rouen and Paris are connected to the rest of the world through a top-level supply of maritime transport. With 127 million tonnes of sea and river traffic “we are European in scale ,” confirms Laurent Castaing, director of the port of Le Havre. Haropa has worked its way up to rank fourth among northern European ports.


The project led by Antoine Rufenacht to develop and galvanise the region from Grand Paris to Normandy requires an investment of €18 billion. As regards essential infrastructure, there is the need to create a highly efficient railway network specifically for freight between Paris, Rouen and Le Havre, the creation of a river-sea link right in the heart of the port of Le Havre and the merger of the ports of Rouen, Caen and Le Havre. “The installation of a new railway line is of primary importance. It will enable goods to be transported to Italy, Spain and Germany, whilst at the same time making the Seine Valley a laboratory for sustainable development,” points out Antoine Rufenacht. The future high-speed line will form the backbone of the axis of Grand Paris. Between now and 2020, Le Havre will be linked, in an hour, with Paris-La Défense, Europe’s premier business district, but also to London. “I attach great importance to the need for France to rely on a capital that is a “global city” and an ambitious marine and port policy in order to strengthen its economy, develop jobs, and increase its tourist business,” adds Antoine Rufenacht.

After Grand Paris, Greater Moscow


Russia was influenced by France’s choice when it selected French architects and town planners Antoine Grumbach and Jean-Michel Wilmotte to develop Greater Moscow and the banks of the River Moskva. The international call for tenders, inspired by the dynamic of Grand Paris, enabled the two French architects, supported by a Russian team, to propose a vast programme of urban development with a view to improving the quality of life for Muscovites. “We are very proud and happy. We have done a huge job, a very personal one. It was our positive outlook that was noticed. We took our inspiration from images of an ideal and optimistic Moscow,” confides Jean-Michel Wilmotte.

The Greater Moscow project aims to make the Russian capital, which wants to expand and modernise, into a major global metropolis that will enhance the quality of life of its inhabitants. The study anticipates in particular the creation of environmentally friendly public transport systems (combining trams, buses, the underground, etc.) and landscaped routes. The key to the project is public transport. But we looked for Moscow’s DNA and we have found it. It is that of being a city in the forest and a forest in the city,” observes Jean-Michel Wilmotte. It will involve creating in each neighbourhood as many concrete surfaces as green spaces, transforming the riverbanks into promenades, and linking the centre with outlying districts.

I’m pleased with the way the French operators have managed to work well with their Russian counterparts to present an overall bid that covers all areas of expertise – town planning, architecture and engineering – and allows an integrated solution to be found for the various challenges posed by a very big city such as Moscow,” the French ambassador to Russia declared at the presentation of the consultation in Moscow’s famous Gorky Park.

The other strong points of the project presented by the Grumbach-Wilmotte team are the creation of nine great gates all around the capital and the reconciliation of the city with the river, by placing the Moskva at the centre of their initiative. The total cost of this project comes to €185 billion over 30 years.

Annik Bianchini


publie le 24/01/2013

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