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Belgian Blue Stone in towns Valenciennes
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Rejuvenation of the town centre, Valenciennes, France.
Research consultancy: SECA
Contracting Authority: Collaboration between the Town of Valenciennes, Valenciennes Métropole, the SITURV (Valenciennes Transport Authority) and the SIAV (Valenciennes Intermunicipal Assistance Authority)

Belgian Blue Stone plays a part in the rejuvenation of the heart of the town

Valenciennes, capital of French Hainaut, is a town which has not been spared by history.  With its flourishing industrial past, it has been one of the richest cities in France, but has also experienced more difficult periods. 
The Great War lead to the total destruction of the industrial apparatus and a fire ravaged the heart of the town in 1940.  The town centre was rebuilt by ignoring the heritage and using concrete in abundance, which aged it very quickly.  Nevertheless, recently the town centre has taken on a completely different air.  This change is the result of a long urban renewal project to which Belgian Blue Stone has made significant contributions.

Objectives

After thirty years of crisis, the local and regional authorities drew up a project which would happily be supported by the French state.

In this great reflection, the “urbanistic” aspect, however vital, was only a small part of a larger urban renewal project.

The focal point of the project is the commercial and tourist revitalisation and the restructuring of essential facilities, stimulation of the cultural life, updating and adaptation of training courses offered at the university and local high schools and above all the development of mobility and accessibility in the town centre.  Currently, the 21st century has started and many objectives have already been met.  The University and the Museum are recognised dynamic institutions, car traffic is reduced thanks to a tramway opened in summer 2006 and the town centre is welcoming.

The realisation of the urban renewal project initiated for the most part by the Mayor of Valenciennes, Dominique Riquet is thus well and truly launched.

Selection of materials in recent activities

After various rejuvenation stages, several recent activities stand out because of their quality.

Firstly, the Place d’Armes which has been completely revised to distribute traffic better and be suitable for people with disabilities has been largely recovered in Belgian Blue Stone.  Sawn, Fine Hammered and Coarse Hammered paving blocks (20 x 20 x 5 cm) make up large pavements and the terraces of some establishments.  These finishes ensure a non-slip surface for pedestrians and easy maintenance.  Structured bands in old cut give emphasis to the paved grey surface.  Blue stone was also chosen for the drains and tree surrounds.  North of the square, two roundabouts regulate traffic flow coming from the four principal directions.  This stress point is eased by the presence of two blue stone fountains decorated with the town’s coat of arms.  These two identical fountains are made up of a circular basin mounted on a rough block with tracks from drill holes and a large bronze bowl where the water flows out.  The entrance to the street is given by a series of very modest bollards and a squared section also in blue stone.

The accesses to the square leading to the shopping streets are covered in the same bluestone flagstones. They work in perfect harmony with other materials used for installations past and future for which granite and concrete have been selected.

A stones throw away, a relaxation area has been developed at Square Crasseau. It is connected to the Place d’Armes by a shopping arcade and serves as a link to the historic district.

This triangular space is composed of an esplanade entirely covered of large rectangular blue stone tiles and is surrounded by granite steps forming terraces.  These terraces offer seats to many passers by.  The esplanade leads to a large modern fountain which is formed from panels of crusts for the base and facings of bluestone simply milled for the corners.

The principal criteria for the choice of materials were quality, aesthetics, and ease of maintenance.

The urban facilities, whether street furniture, fountains, statues and their pedestals, lighting or tramway stations have been well chosen and bring freshness to the town.

The rejuvenation of the Valenciennes town centre is a success.  The town is lively and positive; business is once again flourishing there.

Valenciennes is rediscovering an urbanistic consistency and Belgian Blue Stone has contributed largely to this.  Here, blue stone proves itself as a choice material for urban development, whether it's for its integration with existing buildings, its versatility, the many possibilities which it offers or its ease of maintenance.


Testimonial
Belgian Blue Stone plays a part in the rejuvenation of the heart of the town. Quantities: 5500 m2 of floor covering, 1km of kerbstones and 4 fountains.     

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