The town of Écouflant is divided into two parts – the historical centre, a cul-de-sac naturally delineated by three rivers, and the Évantard neighbourhood, considered a ‘suburb’ of Angers. The landscape in which the town is set is stunning and its personality defined by the natural environment. However, 65 % of land in and around the town is prone to flooding, thus stunting its development. The historical town centre has changed little over the last century and its morphology is highly original. The periphery is characterised by roadways and a confrontation between buildings and the surrounding landscape. The built zones function like chess pieces on a board, with a labyrinth of public spaces flowing in and around them.
The local town council expressed a desire to foster development and increase the pace of modernisation. Their main aim was to reutilise existing buildings for new purposes, demolish and rebuild other council-owned buildings, redefine the main public spaces and their corollaries, including transport and parking and finally, strengthen bonds between the river and the landscape.
The architects at King Kong focussed their design on regenerating the buildings around the town’s periphery, thereby breaking the shackles hitherto rendering the town’s development impossible. The public spaces were redefined and given a new clarity of status. Better attention was paid to their design and presentation, in keeping with their intended use as public amenities for today and for tomorrow.
The mineral nature of the central area, including the square in front of the town hall and church, was maintained, as were its bonds with the surrounding landscape. Strong visual and pedestrian ties exist between this area and the peripheral zones. The only planted area is situated around the church.
The stance adopted by the architects for the landscaping here is rooted in the typology of the town centre, its close bonds with the water and countryside, inspiring the architects to create a series of gardens, spots to stop for a while, rest or chat, closed gardens in the form of belvederes, kitchen gardens and fruit orchards.
The pedestrian areas are paved with stone slabs, set into compacted ground walkways. The road network in and around the town has been left practically untouched, with some modifications to road status within the perimeter of the new amenities.