On the sidelines of a conference on concrete organized by Columbia University in New York, Marc Mimram is today presenting a study on "living bridges", carried out in partnership with Lafarge. World leader in building materials and a major producer of concrete, the most consumed material in the world after water, Lafarge has for many years been committed to sustainable and responsible development. It is for this reason that the Group, whose materials are used at the heart of cities, wanted to take part in a study on city planning and act as a key player in sustainable construction, able to go beyond its products to propose new building solutions with a reduced environmental footprint and an extended social role.
Shanghai, Sao Paulo, Dubai - in this increasingly dense urban universe, the issue of flows and the organization of mobility is prompting architects to rethink cities and the meaning of each element that shapes them. Infrastructure is most often perceived as a necessary evil, and yet it conditions urbanization and foreshadows urban planning.
Today Marc Mimram is therefore proposing to reconsider the role of bridges by suggesting that we "inhabit infrastructure", thinking of it as common property, a common place for socializing and sharing, at the heart of the city. By becoming a territory, infrastructure can bring together the communities on each bank. If it is given new meaning, a bridge will be accepted by these two communities, suggesting a soothed image of the metropolitan dimension. "We need to consider bridges in the same way as towers, in the form of inhabitable structures, the horizontality of which replaces the verticality," suggests Marc. "After the towering city discovered in Manhattan by Louis-Ferdinand Céline in Journey to the End of the Night depicted as being "upright, absolutely straight and scarily stiff", the idea sought is to lie the city down again, taking advantage of the crossing effect."
It is not a question of providing a single answer to this problem since a bridge is necessarily a project rooted in a local landscape and socio-economic reality. In La Courneuve, near Paris, France, for example, more than anywhere, the suburb is isolated from the center and separated from the local park by a motorway; a new urban link needs to be created with a "landscape bridge" drawing its inspiration from the two areas it links. In Shanghai, a "rooftop bridge" offers a new public area in a city entangled within its road infrastructure. In New York, the bridge becomes an inhabited structure, extending beyond its simple transit functions to take in other urban issues and go beyond the issues of space and density, while in Moscow, the inhabited bridge is part of the urban scene, actually above the river where the city began, like a new Ponte Vecchio.
The use of Concrete in Marc Mimram's project
Concrete is key to current debate on cities, urban planning and urbanization. It is available everywhere, and today is a high-tech product allowing architects to develop an infinite number of possibilities, a local, social product par excellence. Research work and technological advances in concrete led by Lafarge have allowed architects to eliminate technical constraints and give free rein to their creativity. Today, new types of concrete are a central part of Marc Mimram's project. Thanks to their higher resistance and superior finesse and esthetics, ultra-high performance concretes such as Ductal® allow Marc Mimram to create elegant concrete structures into which the landscape softly creeps.
Lafarge, the partner of innovative, sustainable architecture
For the last twenty years, Lafarge has endeavoured to push back the limits of concrete and take part in research into more sustainable construction methods by developing innovative products, solutions and building systems which contribute to reducing the impact of construction on mankind and the environment. To achieve this objective, the Group very early on set up the world's leading building materials research center.
Moreover, Lafarge has developed a long-term partnership with architects in order to improve its products and solutions, as well as their concrete applications, within the framework of joint experiments and innovative projects.
Marc Mimram's study on living bridges falls into this category. It follows the Hypergreen project, presented in 2006 at the MIPIM. Hypergreen is a concept of a mixed-use, environmentally responsible tower building, using the properties of new concretes to create a highly energy-efficient building. Hypergreen was developed for the world's mega-cities by architect Jacques Ferrier, in partnership with Lafarge.
About Marc Mimram
Marc Mimram has a Masters Degree in Mathematics, a Postgraduate Degree in Philosophy and is a graduate of the Paris Ecole des Ponts et Chaussées. He is an architect, responsible for many structures and architectural projects in France and abroad. He teaches at the University of Marne-la-Vallée, France and Princeton, USA.
Lafarge is the world leader in building materials, with top-ranking positions in all of its businesses: Cement, Aggregates & Concrete and Gypsum. With 90,000 employees in 76 countries, Lafarge posted sales of Euros 17.6 billion and net income of Euros 1.9 billion in 2007.
Lafarge is the only company in the construction materials sector to be listed in the 2008 ‘100 Global Most Sustainable Corporations in the World'. Lafarge has been committed to sustainable development for many years, pursuing a strategy that combines industrial know-how with performance, value creation, respect for employees and local cultures, environmental protection and the conservation of natural resources and energy. To make advances in building materials, Lafarge places the customer at the heart of its concerns. It offers the construction industry and the general public innovative solutions bringing greater safety, comfort and quality to their everyday surroundings.