Val d’Europe is the fruit of a unique public-private partnership between the French State and The Walt Disney Company. Its development is an integral part of the Agreement signed in 1987, and much more than the simple frame for the Disneyland® Paris theme parks. While it shares certain values with its neighbor, it is a town in its own right, where each district has been thought out by the real estate development team of the Euro Disney group with its own function and architectural identity. Bernard Durand-Rival, Senior Manager Town Development and Architecture, offers us a 5-star visit of the area that inspired Val d’Europe.
Indeed, Val d’Europe shares Disney’s values. It is a human-sized town that treasures its green areas, the novelties of its landscape and its architectural diversity, with transitions and atmospheres that have been well thought out. “We planned it so that the residents and the visitors could feel at ease, that all may feel like stepping out of their homes for a walk, to socialize: in short, we planned a friendly town.” Bernard, who ,has designed Val d’Europe with his teams since 1998 when he joined Euro Disney, explains.
One simply has to walk around town in the middle of the week to notice it: Val d’Europe, is above all a real, dynamic town with 30 000 residents – 60 000 by the year 2030 -, offices, shops, associations, a media-library and various public services. Needless to say, Euro Disney is not alone at the head of this project: the town center and the development of the villages in the 5 municipalities which make up Val d’Europe are the result of a tight collaboration, of dialogues and regular exchanges with the Etablissement Public d’Aménagement (the public development authority in charge of the territory), the Syndicat d’Agglomération Nouvelle – the municipal syndicate –and the local authorities who build the public utilities and manage their municipalities like elsewhere in France. Individual constraints lead to compromises, arbitrations and adaptations. Nevertheless, Val d’Europe, which will continue to develop until 2030, enjoys a vision and a master plan that are well defined.
“We settled in a region which had nothing but a few fields. We committed to develop a town with various levels of density, as well as a real urban itinerary, in which each district would have its own identity and its own style to live artistically side by side. At the beginning of the years 2000 the Regional Shopping Centre was the corner stone of the project. It was a real challenge because no one believed in it, and today, since the shopping complex today attracts over 20 million visitors each year. Those assets also attracted developers and investors to Val d’Europe.”
Centre urbain de Val d’Europe en construction, 2001
Today, teams innovate and enhance the territory of Val d’Europe with a focus on maintaining coherence between the architecture of the housing and office buildings. This innovation is also reflected in the assembly as in the flexibility of the property programs by offering a real estate product that does not exist anywhere else.
We can feel Bernard’s generosity in each architectural project he designs for the town and submits to the local partners and the real estate developers. “Each town entrance must be well thought out –like the majestic entrance of the Lake district – and we feel that every building must have a function, must serve a purpose while respecting its surroundings. We also work on the landscaping and we treat the retention ponds like leisure sites. Our main concern is that people feel at ease at Val d’Europe, that they feel like living or visiting this corner of the Seine-et-Marne. For example: to design a residential district in the village of Magny-le-Hongre we drew our inspiration from the town planning of the local villages and in particular from their plot layout; the result is pleasantly surprising. Narrow streets are lined by houses or walls, courtyards open on to houses linked by pedestrian lanes, and the whole district gives on to a lake and a woods. By giving priority to town development over architecture we were indeed able to create for Val d’Europe a comprehensive and pleasant context to service its residents.”
In order to write his “story” and make it credible, Bernard has the architectural styles of the various districts evolve gently according to a coherent chronology and takes current trends into account: the Station district proudly stands in an Haussmann, neo-classic style, Place Toscane and the Lake district reflect an Italian taste while the Park district is closer to a London feeling. This gives the town a unique atmosphere and a diversity which the residents greatly appreciate.Bernard believes that in architecture inspiration and reinterpretation are just as valuable and respectful as in music. “We build. We make things that last. We are against consumable and disposable architecture, and against abstract design devoid of any sense. We wished to create references that mean something to everyone, in styles that are visually interesting, which have proven their solidity and live on through time. This is our choice and we assume what they entail.”
Even while we are talking with him we soon notice Bernard Durand Rival never loses his creative tendency very long. To illustrate his speech he sketches his ideas for the future Studios and Convention district on the corner of a table. It is currently under construction and will stand in a magnificent art deco architectural style, a unique project for such a large area. This brand new hub is part of Phase 4 of the site’s development, with the extension of the Park district. “We want to create value. It has been our ambition from the very beginning. We don’t want to simply respond to a list of what may be missing, we want to run risks, to awaken people’s curiosity and attract them to come to us.”
La maquette du nouveau quartier Art Déco