Lyon has long been a popular tourist destination; a vibrant city with beautiful streets and elegant French squares, bustling restaurants with delicious food and drink and plenty to see and do. But there is another part to the city, which although it is featured in their tourism information, is easy to miss if you are not aware of it. In fact, the first time I visited the city I missed it altogether. Even when I moved to live there for a year, I happened upon it accidentally.
1. La Confluence
Located on the Presqu’île between the two rivers that run through the city, south of the city centre, is the La Confluence neighbourhood. Visiting this area for the first time it is easy to think you have just stepped into some sort of computerised design of a futuristic city. Tall buildings rise around you, each a different and unusual structure. Angular buildings meet others that seem to wobble with their fluid shapes, wooden apartments meet shiny silver offices, a luminous green building sits nearby another built in bright orange. Brand new pavements are lined with wildflower beds, community gardens look well kept and productive, and there’s barely a car in sight. Next to the river, huge areas of grass and trees provide shade for people enjoying the lovely weather. It seems almost unreal.
But it isn’t. This is the Lyon-Confluence urban project, started in the year 2000 and designed to double the size of Lyon city centre without increasing the greenhouse gas emissions. An ambitious project due to last until 2030, the ultimate sustainable neighbourhood.
2. More space, less emissions
The urban project covers an area of 150 hectares, half of which is the existing neighbourhood, and half is new construction and public spaces. In total, this represents the construction of an additional 1 million square metres, all without increasing the level of greenhouse gas emissions one bit. This is achieved by several factors; the construction of new buildings with high energy performance, an increase in local renewable energy production, energy renovation of the existing neighbourhood, sustainable mobility, and the development of a smart grid via an energy data management platform.
La Confluence is easily reachable from Bellecour, the centre of the city, a half hour walk, ten minute cycle or a couple of stops on the tram. A cycle route runs along the Saône river, taking you from the neighbourhood right through the city, and with the Velo’v bike scheme this is a great way to get around. There is also a free electric shuttle which moves about the neighbourhood, entirely automated without driver. Quite alarming when you cross paths and it sounds its announcement telling you (albeit politely) to move out of its path!
3. A glimpse of the future
La Confluence is an example of what a city neighbourhood can be, smart technology, energy efficient buildings, areas dedicated to nature, open spaces for residents and visitors to relax, a combination of office, public and residential buildings, and all zero-emissions. It’s a great place to visit, but also a great future to imagine for other cities all over the world.