Once demolished, the former factories scattered across the Île de France region are now at the centre of ambitious development programmes, often as part of the Greater Paris scheme. The huge Babcock boilers factory in La Courneuve is an example. An emblematic rehabilitation of contemporary urban planning.
Not so long ago, old factories would have been doomed to destruction. However, in the Île de France area, “we can no longer do without the slightest square metre available”, says Jean-Louis Missika, in charge of urban planning at the Paris Council. French nostalgia for a declining but once vibrant industry, as well as the Greater Paris urbanisation project, are doing the rest. The industrial wastelands of the Île-de-France region are gaining a second lease of life, much to the delight of local authorities, architects, real estate groups and residents alike. Indeed, these former production sites are now being transformed into areas dedicated to housing and culture.
The latest example to date is the huge Babcock boilers factory in La Courneuve. Once one of the city’s main employers, this extraordinary industrial cathedral, overrun with weeds, was the epitome of industrial decline since it closed in 2012. It owes its saving grace to the “Inventons la métropole du Grand Paris (Let’s invent the Greater Paris metropolis)” competition, that caught investors’ attention. The site has just been bought by two real estate companies: Compagnie de Phalsbourg and Emerige,
A ‘culture factory’
Their ambition: to transform this cathedral of glass and steel into a new district, with housing, offices, shops and areas dedicated to culture and the arts. The two companies have called upon architect Dominique Perrault to transform the former factory into a real ‘culture factory’ including galleries, a cinema complex and exhibition spaces. ‘Creation is a natural outlet for former production sites. In particular, it allows us to follow through on a tradition of gesture and invention,’ says Joachim Pflieger, Executive Director of the Fiminco Foundation, which is currently rehabilitating the former Sanofi site in Romainville. While the purchase price of Babcock is not known, investment for its transformation is estimated at approximately €100 million. All to be delivered before the 2024 Olympic Games.