Park Arks

AWP and HHF reference barges and suburban housing in a family of riverside follies at Poissy


Julien Lanoo, Iwan Baan

On a bend in the Seine near Carrières-Sous-Poissy, north-west of Paris, a skeletal tower of winding stairs and shed-like observation decks rears up out of the riparian landscape, offering views over the river and the new eco-park in which the structure sits.


The 113-hectare park – the Parc du Peuple de l’Herbe, which officially opens in June – is the work of landscape architect Agence TER, but the observation deck is one of more than a dozen buildings and ‘follies’ designed for the site in a 2011 competition-winning scheme by Paris-based architect AWP and Swiss practice Herlach Hartmann Frommenwiler (HHF). Their proposal envisaged a visitors’ centre, restaurant, a climbing wall, skate ramps and a theatre, as well as a single-storey insect museum and exhibition centre that is now complete.


While the observatory has a steel frame, the other buildings were conceived as a family of timber structures, which the architects liken to the wooden building blocks enjoyed by preschool children, whose combination of repeated and unique sizes and shapes “enables a wide range of possible variations with a very limited number of elements”.

The choice and expression of the material was informed by local conditions, reflecting the proximity of both houseboats and nondescript housing. “The design springs from a process of hybridisation between these two existing habitat models – the floating barge and the archetypal suburban house”, says the architect.

The museum is composed of five intersecting boxes clad in strips of timber that are painted white in some parts, and appears to float above the ground in a reference to water-borne craft.

Internally, the structure of engineered timber portal frames is prominently expressed; due to the angles at which the modules intersect, the structure of one extends into the volume of its neighbour.

The museum’s collection includes both preserved specimens and live insects, which inhabit a greenhouse within the building. Visitors who prefer to see their wildlife in its natural habitat can follow new trails through the park, where Agence TER has completed extensive planting without fully sanitising the former wasteland. The follies proposed by AWP and HHF have yet to be realised, but a riverside restaurant on stilts  is now scheduled to join the Poissy posse.

Additional Images


Agence TER
EVP, Schnetzer Puskas Ingenieure

Prefabricated timber
Nature Bois
Window system, greenhouse
Resin floor
Wood finish
Interior glass cladding
Saint Gobain
Metal mesh
Carl Stahl


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