Lyon: A Landscape Weekender

As designers we are always looking for new ideas and inspiration, often in the form of an online Landezine binge. But what better way to be inspired than experiencing these places?

To encourage exploration and real understanding of what does and doesn’t work on a day to day basis (rather than viewing beautifully framed shots), the practice makes an annual allocation towards study trips. One of our seven Principals, Kevin Redhead headed off with his team to explore the riverside city of Lyon.

Lyon’s rich culture and character is bursting with an appreciation for public space, evident on every corner through wildflower-laden verges through to atmospheric open plazas. The city’s approach to sustainability is apparent through recent developments such as the Confluence, and a playful design style is apparent along the Rhone river banks and at Parc Blandan. This was a trip set to evolve, adapt and inspire our approaches as Landscape Architects. 

Lyon provided ideal opportunities to consider both incidental and planned experiences in public space. Stumbling upon projects such as The National School of Music De Villeurbanne with its naturalistic planting and industrial details, exploring Parc de la Tete d’Or and finding the giraffes in the public zoo – there was much to enjoy.

Undeterred by a 4.00am start (necessitated by a packed itinerary), we headed straight to the Lyon-Saint-Exupery. Inspired by the wings of a bird, the station by Architect Santiago Calatrava was an impressively grand building with an equally impressive but minimal arrival space. We appreciated references to the building through the detailed design of the bus stops and seating. Throughout the trip details such as the use of concrete and metal guides in the paving for the visual impaired were noticeable. The clearly restrained style and materials palette first seen at the station extended across the city.

Using various modes of transport, including a boat down the Saône and city bikes, Team KR managed to see all the city’s key landscapes. This included the Rampant Wave by Base. Conceptually focused on risk taking, this playscape was both interactive and great fun. The surrounding park displayed fine-tuned design details, such as signage, using one bold colour: red throughout the park. Other projects such as Place Lazare Goujon, sitting between The City Hall and Théâtre National Populaire, created a more intimate environment using reflective pools and concrete climber walls. This square was a relaxing space to sit and incorporated simple details like ramps, which provided much entertainment for children on scooters and skateboarders.

Aside from admiring Lyons projects, Team KR also experiencing some of Lyon’s fine cuisine in the Les Halles de Lyon – a food market selling delicacies such as snails, patisseries and cheese.

Perhaps one of the most impressive schemes in Lyon was the Rhone riverbank. This project has transformed the culture and use of the riverside from a car park to a vibrant, bustling public realm. We spent time cycling, eating and relaxing here, alongside people skating, groups of people meeting, and children playing. The space had a great atmosphere and really emphasised the ability of a project to attract all kinds of people and use. 

After three days In Lyon, revelling in innovative architecture like the Orange cube and imaginative landscapes, we left the city feeling inspired and instilled by an interestingly different approach to Landscape Architecture.

Written by Emma Thompson, Landscape Year Out Student.