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Image prior to the intervention


images  (4)



previous state

In Lyons, the Rue de la République is the main artery in the sector of the peninsula formed by the rivers Rhône and Saone as they run through the city centre. As in so many other French cities, the avenue was opened in the middle of the last century under Napoleon III and was known as the Rue Impériale. It became the most important thoroughfare which linked major buildings in the city such as the City Hall, the Musée des Beaux Arts, the Stock Exchange and the theatre, along a stretch of little more than a kilometre.

Over the course of time, its role as a main artery for vehicular traffic diminished its former splendour and in 1975, tying in with building of the metro, the Rue de la République was converted into an area partially reserved for pedestrians, and its northern section set aside for public transport. The road surface did not stand up to the passage of time and cars gradually took over a space originally intended for pedestrians. The street gradually deteriorated, and was filled with a diversity of street furniture, mainly comprising planters which ended up being used as litter bins.

aim of the intervention

Since 1989, the ambition of the new municiplaity to improve all the important public spaces in the city centre had been forgotten under the pressure of motor cars and led to the establishment of the Plan Presqu'île (Peninsula plan) which was presented in 1991, with the aim of preserving the centre of Lyons and converting it into a lively centre for the entire conurbation, giving priority to public transport. As part of this plan, the Rue de la République had to reassume its role as a main artery, and its identity as the new Rue Impériale. In fact, the space functioned as a meeting place for the inhabitants from the Lyons conurbation and, for this reason, it was decided to embark upon a global intervention involving pedestrianisation which would exclude speed and cars, in order to conquer a peaceful space suitable for walking in.

The measures adopted which conditioned the project were geared to giving legibility to to the space, whilst emptying it of uneccessary elements, and transforming the street into a simple and homogeneous tapestry, which would withstand the ravages of time and house a multiplicity of uses.


The project was carried out in three phases and clearly distinguishes between two sectors along its 1,200-metre route: the northern sector -the banking sector- is a mixed section which has maintained its semi-pedestrian character and also allows use by public transport (trolleybuses, and other means of transport), as well as vehicles loading and unloading at restricted times, and residents' vehicles which have access limited to 30 minutes in parking zones marked out on the cross streets.

This shared use has made it necessary to adopt a traditional section of street with wide pavements and an asphalted roadway, taking into account not only safety but also giving improved visibility to the spaces reserved for different forms of mobility. Crosswise movement is permitted in the car lane.

Furthermore, the other central and southern sectors of the street have been completely pedestrianised. An outstanding feature here is the homogeneity and sobriety of the approach, which is unitary in terms of materials, colours and street furniture, based on a surfacing which is uniform in level and alternates greyish granite (white granite from Berrocal and blue granite from Brittany, materials which have also been used in the northern sector); two strips at the side, five-metres wide, located at the entrances to the buildings, are distinct from the central area and separated from it by the rainwater drainage channels. Towards the southern part of the street, the Place de la République is like a natural expansion of the street, covering an area of 6,700 m2, which acts as a meeting and arrival point. The central space is occupied by an 800 m2 lake-fountain which forms a surface of water with rows of horizontal water jets in the centre which flank a third row of jets.

Vehicular traffic has not been completely excluded from the square, and can cross it transversally in the area marked out by bollards, although the uniform surfacing throughout the surface tends to reduce speed. Undergound, the square is occupied by a car park for 800 vehicles.

Although the space for planting is extremely restricted, as the metro runs underneath, a number of existing trees were replaced by new ones, basically limes and wild cherries.


There is no doubt that the Rue de la République has regained its category as a space of great centrality in the Lyons conurbation, as a quality space which prefectly fulfils its role of socialisation, which is particularly apparent at weekends, when there is a pronounced social mix.

It has changed from a disorderly and noisy street to a pedestrianised boulevard which has met with the approval of the residents and shopkeepers in the area, as well as by the 200,000 pedestrians who frequent the peninsula in the city centre every day.

The lake-fountain has also been a success and has become a true area for relaxation which also cuts out some of the city noise. With regard to the northern part of the street, coexistence between pedestrians and buses is working and there have been no accidents.

The design of the pavement, which is low level in comparison with the roadway, allows permeability from one side of street to the other. Buses emit a warning signal and the residents can now identify this perfectly. The intervention has given back to the Rue de la République its original function of communication and has emphasised all those aspects which are part of the spectacle of the street.

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technical sheet

CITY: Lyon (445,452 inhabitants)





AREA: 29,600 m2

COST: 9,909,190 €



Alain Sarfati


Nathalie Bara