The “jardin Niel” public garden is the parade ground of the former « Caserne Niel » military barracks. It is located at the junction of the “Empalot” district to the west and “Sainte-Agne” district to the east. This garden is one of the main features of the connection between both districts and the banks of the “Garonne” river that crosses the city.
The project deals with the history of the site, which is firstly related to its geographical location. The natural topography of this elevated point that overlooks the Garonne River has always preserved the site form floods and made it a special place since far back in history. Archaeological works on this site recently discovered an Iron Age graveyard, an IInd century craftsman area and an early roman era forum. For the next centuries it became a military stronghold, and has been an observation point during the 1814 Toulouse battle.
The project tries to remind this situation and history. The park covers this precious archaeological site for the next generations; this is why it has been impossible to excavate the entire area. The proposal highlights the topography of the site, considering the presence of archaeological remains that forbid all intervention and plantation at the existing ground level: the garden’s takes the shape of an undulating shroud that covers the buried treasures.
This topography of small raising hills allows trees plantations and creates an oasis of greenery in the central area of the garden. It also reinforces the central axial perspective of the former entrance pavilions and the headquarter building.
The old existing plane trees alignments on both sides of the central topography are refitted. They create both a green and urban filter between the garden and the surrounding buildings. Furthermore, on the hills, random maple trees plantations create a grove atmosphere.
The new topography is a single waving cloth, with a changing texture: from mineral to vegetal areas, varying through smooth transitions. The mineral parts are red brick, remindind of the the rest of Toulouse city, which is known as the “Red city”, the garden surrounding new buildings also use this same local material.
The new topography of the garden results in a variety of different spaces, a series of small landscapes and atmospheres. The hills, groves, lawns, viewpoints, sunken footpaths... are suitable for various activities: children playground, pétanque strip, children slides on the slopes, resting areas… The lower areas are paths and walkways. A greenery outdoor theater faces the former headquarter building, with a water mirror reflecting its façade as well as the tall planes trees.
A linear pergola gives a green pedestal to the surrounding buildings, and creates a fresh and shady area for resting and contemplation.
A large brick forecourt in front of the « Maison des associations » community center, at the “jardin Niel” garden entrance is a meeting and multiple activity space. All the walkways are made by the same brick paving.