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Ascension Paysagère
Architects: MVRDV
Year: 2022
Area: 10550 m2
Location: 1 Rue de Lorient, 35000 Rennes, Frankrike

MVRDV, along with co-architects ALL for real estate developer Groupe Giboire, has completed Ascension Paysagère, a residential complex at the confluence of two rivers in the west of Rennes, France. Occupying a crucial transitional space between the Rennes’ centre and its outer reaches, the 12-storey, 10,550-square-metre complex brings much-needed density in the context of the city’s outward growth, providing 138 homes in a variety of sizes and price ranges – including 37 units of social housing – as well as commercial spaces and pleasant new public spaces in a green waterside environment.

In 2018, French magazine l’Express called Rennes the most liveable city in France and, combined with the arrival of a new TGV connection in 2017, this attractiveness has led to a continued population growth. The many heritage buildings in the city’s centre have shifted this expansion pressure outwards, requiring the periphery to grow either outwards into the countryside or – preferably – upwards with a pleasant approach to densification. Positioned precisely where the Ille River joins the Vilaine, across from the green floating park of the Jardin de la Confluence, at the end of the now- pedestrianised thoroughfare of Mail François Mitterrand, Ascension Paysagère’s highly visible location required an exemplary approach to this perimeter densification.

Ascension Paysagère takes inspiration from geological formations. The project comprises two curving buildings, one large and one small, with gradually receding slopes. By the river, and at points where the project approaches its neighbours, the buildings are low, acknowledging the expansive, low-rise context. Elsewhere, however, the design gradually steps up into three peaks, reaching the maximum 12-storey height in the centre of the site. The terraces created by these gradual step-backs are decked with pots filled with greenery, extending the lush atmosphere of the riverbank upwards to the apartments even at the very top of the building. On the western corner of the larger block, in between the building’s two ‘peaks’, a garden including fruit trees emphasises this green approach.

The façade reinforces the connection to geology. It features both matte and glossy ceramic panels in five different tones of grey, arranged into stratified layers: dark and mostly matte near to ground level, and lighter and glossier at the top levels. At night, lighting reinforces this effect, with more lights integrated into the ceramic panels at the top of the building. As a result, the design seems as if it truly belongs – an outgrowth of the environment itself, which feels natural even as it significantly densifies this part of the city.

Photos by Ossip van Duivenbode