The Claude Bernard Overpass

The Claude Bernard Overpass

DVVD recently completed the Claude Bernard Overpass, a linking structure on the Boulevard Périphérique between Paris and Aubervilliers. Sympathetic to its environment, this sculpted structure, formed entirely of curves, is a strong landmark in the changing panorama of the capital.

Simple as a brushstroke, slender in form, the Claude Bernard overpass elegantly spans the Boulevard Périphérique between Aubervilliers and Paris. This arched timber structure, nearly 100 metres in length, connects the Parc du Millénaire to the Claude Bernard urban development zone, the very embodiment of an emblematic site.

In this rapidly-changing district, a flagship for development policy in the north-east of the Ile-de-France, office blocks and residential buildings rub shoulders with a cinema, a nursing home, a nursery, a school, sports facilities, a multi-mode transport hub, a park and a shopping centre. This developmental diversity has dictated a fresh approach to the consideration of urban density, multi-functionality and compactness, further accentuated by an overall environmental approach which is consistent with the objectives of the climate action plan of the City of Paris. The scale of this challenge was therefore to support this local dynamic through the provision of an overpass. More than just a bridging structure, this needed to be a unifying and symbolic feature.

The Boulevard is crossed between the Rue Lounès Matoub - on the side of the 19th arrondissement of Paris - and the roadway which runs between the buildings of the Parc du Millénaire in Aubervilliers, now made more accessible by this new strategic axis. The Claude Bernard overpass launches itself from the south, extending from the pedestrianized square which accommodates the cinema, inviting the user to sail over the Périphérique and make a gentle landing to the north, in a logical extension of the angle formed by the recently-delivered services building. The proposed route is simple, direct and clear for all pedestrians, who will instinctively use the broad-stepped stairways on either side of the overpass, or the landscaped ramps which offer easier access and the straightforward movement of traffic in both directions, for persons with reduced mobility, bikes or pushchairs.

"Our primary intention was to create a strong and continuous visual link between the two sides of the ring road," Daniel Vaniche explained. "This argued naturally in favour of an arched structure, which is suggestive of walking, crossing, and a leisurely stroll."

Midway across, more generously-dimensioned plots provide rest areas and panoramic viewpoints. Once above the Boulevard Périphérique, the structure is conceived as a unifying space which accommodates bikes and pedestrians alike, in an arrangement where everyone can rub shoulders without impeding each other. The rising curve of the walkway is matched by a variation in the planar profile of the decking, which allows a natural connection to be formed between the streets at either end, ensuring the continuity of both the landscape and the route employed. And again in the interests of natural extension, the overpass is built to a street-level scale: its dimensions ensure its approachability for pedestrians, making it a key element in the network which enhances the flow of traffic in this area. This contextual evidence reinforces both the visual and the spatial proximity of the two sides of the Boulevard Périphérique.

In order to reduce the height of the structure and its impact upon the landscape, and in the interests of a more subtle outline, the load-bearing structure has been conceived as two variable-inertia three-dimensional arches, which are concealed in the protective housing which serves as a safety barrier. This solution enhances the inertia of the structural beams and reduces weight. Ultimately, this optimized structure has a weight of less than 270 tonnes, thereby saving raw materials, reducing the ecological impact of the structure and allowing the latter to be lifted by crane. This design also allows the level of pedestrian traffic to be lowered by more than one metre. The structure is arranged on either side and not below the decking, resulting in a 20-metre ramp and six fewer steps on either side. Above all, a continuity in perspective is maintained from one side to the other, making the structure more urban in character and less imposing. The metal framework is concealed behind the protective timber cladding, which interacts with the light. Its transparency allows visual contact between pedestrians and drivers, while maintaining a degree of distance.


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