Between landscape and urbanityThe new water sports center Mantes-la-Jolie is emblematic of urban renewal in the Val-Fourré public housing projets. Located in the neighborhood “Quartier des Peintres”, known for its problematic social and urban environment, the new buildings are the latest in a series of programs dating back over a decade. Beyond being major sports facilities, they are an important neighborhood gathering space, as well as a destination intended to open up the projects to the outside community. The Val-Fourré projects are located on the banks of the Seine. In addition to social integration, the new complex is tasked with the joining together of cityscape and landscape. Conscious of the stakes, Agence SEARCH seized the occasion to create bold high-quality architecture. To make the beautiful banal, an everyday figure in a neighborhood that is often stigmatized, to make it accessible and normal conveys a message of optimism and opportunity. There are three major ways to interpret the Mantes-la-Jolie water sports center: as a part the greater landscape, as a filter, and through the theme of water. The greater landscape. The exceptional site offers beautiful views of the Vexin hillsides. The undulating morphology of the buildings’ green roofs responds to the hills on the other side of the Seine. The architecture was conceived as a landscape, with the intention being to heighten the connection between the users and the surrounding natural environment, be they inside or outside the buildings. As a filter. A unifying force between the city and nature, the Mantes-la-Jolie water sports center is structured by the interplay of transparencies, beginning with the mashrabiya on the city-side façade and extending inside the building through a series of porous spaces. Porosity, gradation, progressive dilation of limits and boundaries between exterior and interior - such processes bring the Vexin hillsides and the Val-Fourré housing project together, all the while opening up the facility to the neighborhood. The successive filters create a nuanced atmosphere of calm and serenity. Water. The unifying element of the project. The reproduction of undulating form, at different scales, and with different subjects, is an explicit reference to the aquatic element. From this point of view, it expresses the essence of the activity. It marks its identity.