Espace Océan

A mixed-use neighborhood acting as an urban suture

PCA-STREAM is leading the development of a new mixed-used district in Saint-Denis, the administrative capital of the French overseas region of Réunion. Espace Océan takes supplants a vast urban brownfield on the seaside. It offers two pedestrian promenades that feature housing, shops, and offices, as well as new public spaces that foster urban continuities and open up the city to the sea. The district is designed following a bioclimatic approach that accommodates specific local cultural, architectural, and climatic conditions.

A new urban beacon

PCA-STREAM is designing a new district in Downtown Saint-Denis for ICADE in collaboration with the architectural firms Triptyques and L’Atelier Architectes, as well as the landscapers from BASE, who were all invited to diversify the architectural styles to be expressed there. A vast urban brownfield had severed the connection between the city and the ocean and lies at the heart of a number of urban issues at the scale of the municipality. As the new district is located on the seafront and is visible from the airport, it will be a beacon at the entrance of the city and will be ideally placed to open Saint-Denis to the ocean and to reconnect the locals with the sea front. The challenge is to balance an ambitious mixed-use program, which entails a certain degree of densification, with the creation of soft continuities toward the existing gridded, yet heterogeneous, city. The project addresses the lack of housing and public space in the urban fabric of Saint-Denis by providing a new type of district—one that is dense, multifunctional district, and well-integrated in its surroundings.

Initial state of the project site
Initial state of the project site
Initial state of the project site
View of the new district © PCA-STREAM


Connecting public spaces

The site of Espace Océan connects the historic and modern sides of Saint Denis. This situation has prompted a reflection on the figure of the “promenade” and PCA-STREAM chose to design a true neighborhood rather than simply a series of buildings. Espace Océan is composed of ground floor shops, social housing units, a hotel, and an office tower on a three hectare tract of land. The buildings plot out new public spaces by reinterpreting the “promenade” as a vast ambulatory space of semi-public pedestrian streets. This design, which is open to its environment, is part of a soft urban continuum. At the crossing of the main thoroughfares, a square offers both a resting area and a lively urban hotspot, and is visually connected with the Indian Ocean, thus acting both as a place for crossing through and meeting up. Given that Espace Océan must address various uses occurring on a continual basis, the project introduces a private–collective gradient: the public space comprises lively playgrounds as well as ephemeral works, and at the same time moments of calm can be found in the gardens located within the urban blocks.

Public spaces at the foot of the building © PCA-STREAM
Public spaces at the foot of the building © PCA-STREAM
Footbridge © PCA-STREAM
Public spaces at the foot of the building © PCA-STREAM


Vernacular architecture reconsidered

Gardens are placed within the housing complexes, acting as buffer zones separating them from the public street. These groves of hardy native and endemic species also mitigate the urban heat island effect and provide strong geographic and cultural roots to the new neighborhood. To ensure architectural coherence, the team has worked on the adaptation of the standard of metropolitan France to the context of Réunion by incorporating the specific conditions of its tropical climate, existing architectural typologies, but also its local lifestyles. The colonial architectural heritage of Réunion is extremely rich and diverse, as is the population of the island. This is especially notable in the Creole townhouses (cases créoles), which are characterized by their generous outside galleries, locally known as varangues. PCA-STREAM has sought to place its project in the continuity of this legacy by involving designers of various origins, experiences, and architectural styles who have all assented to using simple and traditional composite designs.

Garden in the heart of ilot © PCA-STREAM 
Garden in the heart of ilot © PCA-STREAM
Garden in the heart of ilot © PCA-STREAM


A bioclimatic approach

The city of Saint-Denis experiences significant heat events, as well as hurricanes and heavy rains during the warm season, which is why a comprehensive bioclimatic approach dictated the design of the open seafront superblock of Espace Océan. To address the challenge of urban heat islands, the city must be viewed as a complex web of interactions. A green landscape is sketched out by densely planting the inner courtyards of the blocks with a large selection of plants that are adapted to urban and coastal environments. The insulation of the buildings is supplemented with biodiversity-friendly green roofs. Solar energy is utilized to produce hot water and the thermal inertia of the ocean to generate cool water. Corner and double-loaded buildings are favored and a simple and economical combination of shutters and louvers derived from the traditional architecture of Réunion brings shade, cool, and privacy to residents. The buildings are clad with slats of wood that are positioned in order to provide a varying degree of shade depending on how they are oriented and on the time of the day. Finally, the Creole varangue galleries provide a sheltered living space on the outside, thus bringing together environmental efficiency and local lifestyles.

General axonometric view of the district © PCA-STREAM
Bioclimatic buildings © PCA-STREAM
Bioclimatic buildings © PCA-STREAM



Client Icade Promotion / Sodiac
Program Mixed-use project (housing, hotels, offices, shops)
Location Espace Océan, Saint-Denis de la Réunion
Surface area 70 000m²
Cost 140 M€ HT
Status Building permit filed
Certifications H&E DOM