Euralille’s compositive elements

The master plan developed by Rem Koolhaas in Lille gains a logical shape due to a number of relations and elements. What is very important to underline is that no matter how different or ambiguous this elements are, they always work as a whole. In these series of subtitles I try to interpret how the main elements work.


The immense scale of the master-plan eliminates the possibility of doing an iconic building or a building so big that would resolve all the problems. The big scale of the project in a certain way obliges diversity to be the key element of the master plan.

As one can see in Koolhaas’s sketch, the buildings he idealized have diverse sizes and relations to the territory. By this sketch we can also tell that Koolhaas does a certain type of territorial architecture and this intent is clearly seen when he rounds the horizon line at the top. By this mean he exaggerates and makes clear the importance of the territorial scale.


Acknowledging multiple scale context in which the master plan sits, it can be read locally and globally. Locally in the sense that the master plan resolves traffic flows of Lille by creating a strategic knot of diverse transports. The knot can also be understood as a knot whose importance is not anymore local but also global. This is due to the fact that Euralille serves as a station to the TGV and is the main stop if one comes to France from England.

The drawing illustrates Koolhaas’s thoughts about creating a new center in Lille which emphasizes the local and global relations. It is also interesting that in his sketch he also takes into consideration distance and time.

Heterogeneity and Multiplicity

In Rem Koolhaas’s master plan none of the buildings can be understood as independent. Each intervention is interpreted in terms of others and the strong relations that the diverse flows impose. The uniformity or gathering force of the master plan is given by system of objects and not by an iconic building. The big scale of the project is the one that prescribes heterogeneity and multiplicity to become the unifying factors.

Dense buildings in the upper part and a big flat roof in the lower portion of the drawing. These elements seem totally different and contradictory. When one realizes that the roof works as a mediator between the old city center and the new part of Lille one understands the relations between the apparently contradictory elements.


Euralille can be understood as a project in which flow, dynamism, or simply traffic reorganization are in the core of the project. In a certain way Euralille gives a new alternative way of thinking a contemporary city. A new part of city which can have a dialogue with many types of traffic flows. In fact, Euralille could be understood as a part of city and at a contemporary time as a station in which both elements work in a harmonious way. Such is the harmony that it’s very hard to imagine one without the other.

The different textures or patterns show us how all this elements become guidelines of how  to develop a project which tries to relate itself with the evident existing flows and dynamics. The position of the Triangle des Gares is comprehensively traced and defined by the railways as well as the set of high rise buildings are placed to accompany the flow of the highway. The will of letting avenue Le Corbusier pass between the park and Triangle des Garres again confirms the design consideration for flows.

Relational Center

An interesting aspect about Euralille is that it works as a new center within Lille and subsequently in a global scale. One could think that new centers have the risk of becoming autonomous and not have a relationship with the old urban fabric. Instead, Euralille works as a center which contributes to the energy of Lille by being penetrated by various traffic and pedestrian systems.

By writing “Liaisons pietons importantes” and sketching all the important pedestrian links, the intent of Koolhaas to relate to the surroundings instead of working as an autonomous urban element can’t be more evident in this drawing. The relational center in terms of global scale can be seen in the “axe TGV” which is always drawn in Koolhass’s sketches for practical project importance as well for the theoretical importance as a global center.

Dense and Open

The contrast which exists between the densification of “Triangle des Gares” and the openness of the park balance out and work together rendering even more obvious elements such as heterogeneity and multiplicity. A flow also exists between the mega-building of Nouvel and the park of Gilles Clément in which one is attracted by the diverse volumetric grammar that each of this places have. An intermediate or mediator point is achieved with the boulevard Le Corbusier by François Deslaugiers. The viaduct serves as a “belt” which controls like a damn does with water in this case the level of relation between the park and the very dense volume of shops, offices and homes.

In the original project, this contrast between the denseness of the Triangle des Gares and the park was even more articulated with these series of zig-zag ramps that separated and related the two spaces.

The Grand Palais designed by OMA expresses it’s denseness and openness in two levels. A building which contains an exhibition hall, a congress hall, and a concert hall which is read as one when seen from the exterior. This building develops a logic in which the building becomes an interior of the master plan and an exterior of the building itself. This  external and internal relationship repeats itself again in the building itself. One could say the the Grand Palais has an interior master plan which is made out of different elements but from the exterior it can be read as a whole.

In the plan, the three parts are clearly divided but it’s also clear that the external facade unifies the separate elements and presents them as one to the exterior. Another interesting aspect about the building’s facade is it’s apparent solidness. At night all the solidness that exists during the day disappear and the building becomes “alive”, revealing it’s internal functions.


Euralille is an evident example of how diverse scales and dynamics can be combined in order to create architecture that can respond in a harmonious way to the problematics that arise from a given territorial context.

Image sources: “Lille” edited by the IFA (Institut français d’architecture, 1990)

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