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Image prior to the intervention


images  (11)



previous state

Plourin-Lès-Morlaix, in Brittany, is a small town – in both political and spatial senses – still dominated by parish buildings constructed at a crossroads around which the town grew in a staggered juxtaposition of buildings in harmony with the landscape and organically interwoven with the passing of time. The nature of the parish complex – a seventeenth-century church built over Gothic ruins, the ossuary, cemetery and square – form the centre of this old country town in the north of the French Finistère region, which is not far in terms of distance, although it is otherwise cut off from the centre of Morlaix, the town on which Plourin-Lès-Morlaix depends. The population of the latter, 4,500 inhabitants, is divided between the town itself (1,500 inhabitants), the countryside and the outskirts of Morlaix. In the 1970s, the town lost part of its population to other urban nuclei in the outskirts of Morlaix.

aim of the intervention

The desire of the municipality to regenerate the centre of Plourin in order to bring the residents back materialised in the specification of different policies for local development. In 1990, the municipality called for tenders for the construction of a new council building that would also house a multimedia centre, with the aim of creating a new cultural and administrative centre. The project represented a departure point for reflection, and projects on a wider scale, to assert Plourin's identity through its buildings, and its old and new facilities, in a strategy for consolidating the centre and structuring its public spaces.

The improvements brought about by restructuring the town centre had to respect extant human and spatial relations and to be based on what was learned about the urban conditions of Plourin from its inhabitants and its already-existing structures in the network of homes and agricultural buildings, tucked-away public buildings and autonomous facilities. This meant learning from the processes by which they had all been introduced, which, to some extent, had denied the urban dimension of the town with a geometry that was full of obstacles and small places.


The project explored the possibilities for achieving consensus among the residents of the community and capitalised on attitudes naturally arising from the conditions of daily rural life as an active principle of the project. Collaboration between the town council, municipal experts, the residents, those responsible for particular public services, users and the team in charge of the project, was decisive in the conception and carrying out of the project's different activities over a period of more than ten years. This consensus took multiple forms according to the phase of the project’s execution, in public debates, exhibitions, assemblies, meetings, visits to the work in progress, but it was constant in fuelling the activities of revitalising the town centre, while channelling through this dialogue the construction work of a project with a true civic focus.

The work in improving the town included the creation of new urban public spaces – squares, gardens, thoroughfares, parking areas – and a revamping of already existing public spaces, for example, streets, alleys, small squares and the cemetery. The construction of the new council building and multimedia centre, besides representing the introduction of a new architectural project, also supposed the creation of an artefact that was joined to the town and open to the surrounding landscape, able to create around itself an urban world on village scale. All the other interventions that were aimed at improving and adapting the open public spaces proceeded on the basis of the different spaces outside this nucleus, which is so dense in its representativeness, and now reinforced by the introduction of additional public services such as a post office in the refurbished former council building. These new spaces were soberly executed respecting the simplicity of Breton architecture, with a very limited number of materials being used – stone, steel and glass – thereby conjugating tradition and modernity. Among the improvements made in urban functioning, traffic circulation was dealt with, along with the provision of parking areas, intensification and improvements in general lighting and green areas with vegetation chosen by landscape designers working with residents responsible for this project that had long been demanded by the community.

The formal, geometrically defined, town square and gardens of the council and multimedia centre were gradually to give way to forest and more natural green spaces in other parts of the town, these being understood as privileged borders in relation to the surrounding landscape and the town’s rural condition. The car park, the walks and gardens of the old people’s residence, and thoroughfares leading into the centre from different points of Plourin were all adapted and landscaped. In the space between the town centre and its natural borders, a more or less formalised, and more or less paved graduation was introduced, this reinforcing the reading of the new centre as such. This modulation of the urban character of the town did not jeopardise the continuity of its thoroughfares, but rather bolstered the organic relation of the different spaces in improving access from one to another. In the cases of the presbytery, the cemetery and the ossuary, the external spaces were adapted so as to foster contact between the old centre and the adjoining new centre, equipping small public service facilities with a view to improving their utility. A considerable part of this work was carried out by the municipal work brigade, this intensifying local complicity with a project that, combining municipal technical skills and community wisdom, was the start, as early as the planning and execution phases of the initiative, of the residents’ appropriation of the different public spaces.


This project, which took a long time to complete, has made of the two forms of democratic participation, representative and participative, its most effective tools in attaining through consensus the proper scope and scale of the different measures for improving the town. The dialogue that fuelled the project led to a sense of a new common focus. Through a range of interventions of different sizes, the Plourin town centre has been recovered with specific attention being given to the conditions of the site. The revamping of spaces opened up around old and new structures was effected with care taken to respect the differences between all the areas involved, while consolidating the centre in functional terms and meeting the expectations of local development.

Mònica Oliveres i Guixer, architect

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technical sheet

CITY: Plourin-Lès-Morlaix (4,500 inhabitants)





AREA: 1,395 m2

COST: 1,330,120 €



Atelier d'architecture Philippe Madec, Philippe Madec


Eric Thave, Gilles Naturel, Nathalie Dectot, Nathalie Gobillot, Fanny Tassel, Christine Verjus, Anne Mainfroy, Emilie Magendie, Michael Van Valkenburgh, Tim Smith, Béatrice Taburet, Vladimir Lyzcsynsky, Roger Joncourt, I2C Ingénierie, Roger Miniou, SETUR, Mr Roussel, Mr Laruelle, Mr Bousquet, SOBRETEC