Le Havre, World Heritage Site

Commerce Dock.

Commerce Dock

Created at the same time as the New Town (from 1787), Commerce Dock is one of the most characteristic element of the urban landscape in Le Havre. Its majestic proportions are a reminder of the ever strong link between the city and its port. It held a major part when the reconstruction perimeter was defined. Its width determined the size of the urban grid and of the housing blocks.

All the blocks lining the sides of this dock were destroyed in 1944. They were replaced between 1947 and 1964 by housing blocks and public buildings designed during the reconstruction period and during the 1970’s and 1980’s, with such large schemes as the Maison de la Culture (i.e. the Volcano built by Niemeyer) and the International Trade Center. Commerce Dock held a major part in defining the reconstruction perimeter. Its width determined the size of the urban grid and of the housing blocks.

The blocks to the north are typical examples of the Perret construction School or vectors of a certain monumental rationality. They were rebuilt by Jacques Poirrier, Henri Daigue, Robert Royon, Cambre, Otello Zavaroni, Jean Louvet, René Dechenaud, André lenoble, Jacques Neuville, Pierre Lebourgeois, Jacques Lamy, Cazaneuve, and Boutet de Monzel.

The blocks to the south are typical of a spare regional style, desired by local architects for the reconstruction of the Saint-Francois district. They were designed by W. King Lee, Rapson Van der Meulen, Pierre-André Jouan, Passini, Alexandre Franche, Noël Boucher, Henri Vernot, and Pierre Le Bourgeois.

These buildings on the north and south of the dock stand in contrast with later reconstruction sites to the east and west.

Despite the great variety of buildings around it, Commerce dock makes up a coherent urban whole. These ill-assorted architectural styles all share the quiet setting of the large rectangle of water, as well as maritime references, opportunely reinforced by those of the Niemeyer Cultural center and Guillaume Gillet’s elegant footbridge.