Le rôle de la puissance publique, c’est d’accompagner les mutations, pas de se substituer aux acteurs.

Nous vivons dans une économie mixte, dans un système ouvert, pas dans une économie étatique. Le rôle de la puissance publique, c’est d’accompagner les mutations, pas de se substituer aux acteurs. Nous créons de la régulation, de l’harmonie. Le public intervient très fortement sur l’espace public, et de manière plus relative, mais précise, sur l’espace privé. Nous ne sommes pas pour autant dans un système de compromis, de marchandage, mais dans une logique de proposition. C’est tout l’esprit du plan guide.


Alexandre Chemetoff, architect, urban planner and landscaper, has constructed an interdisciplinary practice that advocates for a plural, layered, and non-hierarchical approach to the design of public space. He believes that cities are not bound by a single narrative; instead, they function as an assemblage of stories, traces of lived experience and sites of interactive experimentation.  Consequently, they ought not be designed dogmatically, rather enabled and revealed.

We first encountered the work of Alexandre Chemetoff in the bamboo garden – an ethereal and introverted landscape inserted into the Parc de la Villette.  Theoretically and experientially rich, the garden plays with notions of territory, infrastructure, sound, materiality and observation. Progressive for its time, it continues to resonate and engage.

Chemetoff’s Bureau du Paysage, an “office complex” in miniature located just outside of Paris in Gentilly, borrows from the logic of the bamboo garden. A network of exterior spaces on a narrow sloped terrain connects the main building and a series of free standing greenhouse structures. On the day of our visit Chemetoff set up tables on the principle terrace that hinging the two wings of the main building. He talked about his practice, how the rupture between disciplines is a relatively new and unjustifiable development, and about how the idea of the plan-guide can replace the outmoded notion of a master plan.

In 2000 Chemetoff received the prestigious French Grand Prix de l’urbanisme. Consecutively, he launched one of the most ambitious and progressive urban planning projects in France. Termed the Plan-guide de l’Île de Nantes, its task was to restore 160 ha of territory on the city’s central island.

Chemetoff elected to turn his back on all conventions of city planning, opting instead for a speculative and iterative mapping of existing and projected conditions. His office produced an updated map every three months for the duration of ten years. The map, a layered inventory of all structures, materials, vegetation and projected interventions, served as a suggestion or guide for other architectural interventions, rather than a prescriptive, color-coded rule set.

Alexandre Chemetoff shared copies of the maps that his office produced and explained how the projected system worked.

– Anya Sirota