Bouroullec brothers’ ephemeral pavilion above Rennes river

A "point of contemplation" surrounded by a mix of both the city's contemporary and traditional architecture

by Archilovers
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Le Belvédère in the city of Rennes is the latest example of Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec’s experimentation on them theme of urban landscaping.
Le Belvédère is notable as much for its presence as for its discretion: it is both a pavilion to be seen from a distance, from the Bretagneou Bridge or the banks of the Vilaine, and a means of giving the public the opportunity of a new view of the city.

A day view of the Belvédère. Photography courtesy of © Studio Bouroullec.


In 2016 a large exhibition of Ronan and Erwan Bourroullec’s work was put on in Rennes. Exhibited at the FRAC Bretagne, the Champs Libres and in the Parliament building, the event showed recent work, mostly hitherto unseen, developed in three distinct areas: object design, projects of micro-architecture, and projects for public space. As well as a collection of research models and photographs, videos and full-size prototypes, the exhibition ‘Rêveries Urbaines’ (Urban Reveries) presented some 20 ideas for the development of public spaces. The exhibition at the Champs Libres gave rise to the idea that a Reverie could find a place in Rennes.

A night view of the Belvédère, featuring 32 luminous orbs that transform the pavilion into a lighthouse. Photography by © Yann Peucat.


After three years of discussion, analysis and designs, Ronan and Erwan Bourroullec’s project had taken on the look of a folly – in the sense of one of those small constructions that appeared in the parks and gardens of the 18th century, little buildings that served no specific purpose other than to satisfy a fancy. In Rennes, Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec’s folly is a ‘Belvedere’, standing in the River Vilaine in a position remarkable for the quality of its urban design (the Mail area designed by Alexandre Chemetoff, the pedestrian avenue of the Mail François Mitterand, and the Confluence gardens) and some notable architecture (Jean Nouvel’s Cap Mail, Louis Attetche’s Mabilais, and the forthcoming Landscaped Ascension by MVRDV and Barré-Lambot’s Inside).

Model. Photography courtesy of © Studio Bouroullec.


Like most objects designed by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, the Belvedere is striking in its simplicity of form.

Sitting on a pile planted in the Vilaine, the Belvedere is composed of a circular platform in unpolished concrete, crowned with a lightweight, slender structure (13m high), giving the impression of a sort of pavilion or bandstand. This structure – a tensile assembly of stainless-steel masts and anodised aluminium stays – holds 32 luminous orbs and 16 wind-sensitive mobiles, which reinforce the impression of an extraordinary object.

Models from 2016, the project that inspired their pavilion design for Rennes. Photography courtesy of © Studio Bouroullec.


Freely accessible by means of a footbridge from the Quai Saint-Cyr, the Belvedere is like a little peninsula, an extension of the public space, for each to use as they choose: a place for contemplation to open new horizons, new views over the city and the river; a place for new encounters and a meeting point; the venue for occasional or regular events.

A detail of the pavilion’s structure, featuring stainless steel and polished, anodised aluminium. Photography courtesy of © Studio Bouroullec.


"We spent a lot of time walking around the city to identify the right position, the right site. While there are numerous interesting positions in Rennes, the clear choice, in the Vilaine, gives a particular view of the Cathedral, the old town, and of the emblematic modern and contemporary buildings of Rennes: Louis Arretche’s Mabilais, Georges Maillols’ Horizons, as well as more recent residential projects by Jean Nouvel and Christian Hauvette. The proximity of the Mail François-Mitterand, which is a popular new amenity for the people of Rennes, also struck us as important. The gamble was to install a construction within this landscape with sensitivity: to affirm the presence of the Belvedere without obscuring one of the most beautiful views of the city. On this particular point, the question of scale was long debated. In the end, the decision was made to align the project with the large trees along the Quai Saint Cyr. Fine and virtually transparent, the Belvedere is about 13 metres high; it exists without existing, both present and restrained, very different at night, when it takes on the air of a lighthouse. The wind that activates the 16 mobiles, the weather and seasons that visibly affect the shine of the structure, also have an important role in one’s changing perception of the object" – says Ronan Bouroullec.

Belvédère by day. Photography courtesy of © Studio Bouroullec.


"When it is not destined for purely commercial use, street furniture generally replies to a very specific function. In the case of the Belvedere, which is a singular, new and different object, it is quite the opposite: the Belvedere is a significant element that for reasons of symbolism and because of its position in the city, restores interest in an object that is freely open to any use one cares to name: a lighthouse and a landmark in the city, a place for new encounters and a meeting point, a place of contemplation" – explains Ronan Bouroullec.


A view of the Belvédère by night. Photography: © Yann Peucat.


Photography courtesy of © Studio Bouroullec.


The Belvedere promises a new experience of the Vilaine and finds its place quite naturally in Rennes, a city that, with its ‘Rennes 2030’ urban project, is working to reclaim the banks of the river and affirm the identity of its city centre.

A view of the lattice structure from the platform. Photography: © Yann Peucat.








Cove photo: a view of the Belvédère by night above Rennes river. Photography: © Yann Peucat.





    Le Belvédère 6

    Le Belvédère

    Rennes / France / 2021