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Competition: Reinvent the Seine, Paris to Le Havre

The French government has launched an international competition to regenerate a series of sites along the River Seine (Deadline: 3 October)

Open to architects, designers, urban planners and other experts, the Reinvent the Seine contest seeks short-term proposals for around 40 publicly owned sites along the world-famous river and its canals.

The project aims to boost connectivity between Paris, Rouen and Le Havre, and to establish new ways of living, working, trading and relaxing on the river.

Paris, France

Paris, France

Source: Image by Sam Valadi

Notre Dame and the River Seine

According to the brief: ‘The Seine is the cradle of the area, at once a source of nourishment, a major transport route and a driver of urban, economic, and industrial development, as well as boasting world-renowned natural and architectural heritage.

‘Reinvent the Seine aims to encourage competition as a source of innovation in relation to the river and the river’s contribution to the region. The reclamation of the river must be nourished by diverse cultures and skills, both local and foreign, in order to promote new purposes and uses in synergy with the water.’

The 777km-long river stretches from the Langres plateau in north-east France to the English Channel at Le Havre, and has played a major role in French history, culture and commerce.

Today the river has been recognised as an important site for future innovation and development.



Reinvent the Seine

Fresh interest in the river’s potential was sparked by French architect Antoine Grumbach’s Le Grand Paris regeneration project, launched eight years ago.

Contest sites include tunnels, quaysides, footbridges, riverside plazas and former industrial sites. Among the highlights are the 200m² Port de Montebello opposite Notre Dame Cathedral (pictured) on Paris’s left bank and the abandoned Océade water sports centre in Lacroix island, Rouen.

Proposals should incorporate the river, promote new connections without interfering with maritime transport, consider natural flooding and promote the identity of the Seine Valley area.

First-round applications must include a description of the project team, a 10-page A4 document explaining the concept and a single A3 board featuring illustrations.

Up to four concepts will be shortlisted for each site and invited to participate in the competition’s final round where bids must be drawn up in French with all costs detailed in Euros.

The winning teams for each site will be announced by their respective land-owners in spring next year.

How to apply


The registration deadline is 3 October

Contact details


Visit the competition website for more information

Thames Baths case study: Q&A with Chris Romer-Lee

The director of Studio Octopi discusses lessons learned designing a floating swimming pool for the river Thames in London

Studio Octopi

Studio Octopi

Chris Romer-Lee

How will your Thames Baths project contribute to the river’s regeneration?

Since 2014 we’ve been through five iterations of the design. Each time we’re honing the environmental, educational and health and wellbeing attributes that form the backbone to this social enterprise. We want to get schools using the baths for swimming but also as an educational resource; understanding what we’re doing and why. Whether it’s swimming or having a coffee on the deck, there are huge benefits in providing access to green and blue spaces in our cities. In doing this we will set a new benchmark for public outdoor pools in the UK perhaps even across the world.



Source: Image by Studio Octopi and Picture Plane

Thames Bath’s project by Studio Octopi

What issues are important when designing floating structures in dense urban areas?

Over the last 18 months we’ve been working closely with the Port of London Authority (PLA) to ensure our plans are a positive contribution to its Thames Vision. Building on the river is extremely complex, with issues from safety to assessing navigational risk. The Thames has a large navigation channel and buffer zone that cannot be impeded on, which limits location and form. In addition, existing and proposed infrastructure all has to be taken into consideration, including any impact during its construction phase. During this process we’ve been helped by marine engineer Beckett Rankine, which has helped us address many of these regulations as we move towards a planning application.

How would you set about designing a scheme to reinvent perceptions of the Seine?

Thames Baths was set up to campaign for access to the river for all. The ‘canyonisation’ of the river, crowding the river’s edge with high-rise luxury flats, is severing older communities’ access to the river. ‘Canyonisation’ has bought privatisation of the Riverwalk and little extra genuinely public space. We’d encourage entries to reconnect communities to the river. This could be through providing increased open space, sports facilities, infrastructure or simply regreening the river. For example, where in central London do you see the original riverbank foreshore and planting? Nowhere. Bridge piers and embankments have all encroached on the river, increasing the flow rate and making it impossible for any planting to get hold. Ultimately proposals need to wash their face, and this is where architects should be looking to conjure up the magic.



Source: Image by Studio Octopi and Picture Plane

Thames Bath’s project by Studio Octopi