Resembling a savannah of inviting trees, 15 parasols provide texture and rhythm to open space.
By Frank Edgerton Martin
Winner of several awards, the Parc des Vergers de la Plaine is a shopping venue located in Chambourcy, France. Somewhat similar to an American “lifestyle center,” Parc des Vergers includes 37,000 sq m (398,265 sq ft) of shopping spaces grouped around a central court. This public space serves as an exit from the underground parking lot as well as a social and gathering area at the center of the mall.
Taiyo Europe GmbH led this custom application of ETFE. Working with the architect SCAU, Taiyo created a forest of ETFE parasols to lend protection from the sun and rain. ETFE is ideal for conveying light and 100 percent recyclable after a lifespan of up to 25 years.
Resembling a savannah of inviting trees, the 15 parasols are 12 m and 20 m (39 ft and 65.6 ft) in diameter with a total height of 12 m (39 ft). They provide texture and rhythm to what would otherwise be a large open space. The designers scaled and sited the umbrellas to encourage people to linger without obscuring views to signs and shops. Like a forest with a high canopy, there is both shade and clear vistas through the understory.
Taiyo notes that this is the first fabric architecture project to design such large “20-m diameter umbrellas with one layer ETFE film.” Along Parc des Vergers de la Plaine’s outer edges, the design team added additional white ETFE umbrellas to highlight the project’s edges and to create a visible roadside presence for drivers and potential shoppers.
As with many tensile projects, the Parc des Vergers steel structure had to be designed for an exact fit when paired with the ETFE cladding. “Technically this project was very challenging as the ETFE had to be reinforced with a cable net,” explained Taiyo in its award submittal. “Special clamps and cable connections were designed, tested and successfully passed the ATEx procedure (French technical approval procedure).”
Despite a tight time schedule and very bad early spring weather, all 15 parasols (covering 4,200 sq m [45,208 sq ft]) were installed just in time for a May opening.