Le Havre, World Heritage Site

Ville moderne

A modern seaside town

Modern, monumental, the reconstructed city covers land and sea, at the tip of the Seine estuary. It is part of the port and maritime landscape at the mouth of the river.

Bounded to the north by a wooded hillside with villas, the rebuilt centre has kept its old docks, reminders of high and low tides movements.

Its life is influenced by the dance of ferries meeting horizon, the silhouettes of cargo boats and container ships through the port estuary, its giant loading cranes, its lights.

“What I want is to create something new and durable. Since we start from scratch, we must seize the opportunity to start anew and allow Le Havre to face its future as a great city and a great port….

….I picture a sea-front where all the monuments of the city would be clustered and would accompany the ships until they reach the port. High towers would house the offices of large maritime companies, trading businesses and industries. They would reach way over the town buildings, which would be five or six storey high, not more.” Auguste Perret

The quality of the reconstructed urban landscape is based on alternating panoramic and narrow perspectives, continuous or broken-down ones.

The urban lay-out ends up a set of transparent vistas through which the reconstructed city, the site itself and the port districts interplay on harmonious chords. Full volumes and empty spaces are woven together and a single look distinguishes separate spaces, whether close by or further away. Within the reconstructed city as a whole, a succession of sights unfold in harmony.

One’s eye is surprised and captured when it navigates through the building arrangement. The visual journey through the town gives a new dimension to the orthogonal grid.

In Le Havre, the sky plays a major part, windows frame the surrounding landscape, blocks open on views of interior courtyards.

The skyline of the reconstructed city, seen up close, is made up of terraced roofs, showing off the cubic contours of oceanic heavens