As well as an original shopping centre, Odysseum is a new neighbourhood of the city of Montpellier, which has grown eastwards over a period of twentyfive years in an urban continuum successively embracing the operations of Polygone and Antigone, Port Marianne and Odysseum itself. Benefitting from Michel Desvigne and Christine Dalnoky’s landscape master plan for the territory as a whole, the project generates new ways of weaving the urban fabric. The approach applied to the landscape defines the entrance to the city and governs the relationship between built masses and roadways, making Odysseum a neighbourhood in which pedestrian and automobile routes alternate evenly, with an innovative focus on ease-of-use. In the end, the neighbourhood is a sort of demonstration of what open city urbanism can be.
Odysseum – the shopping centre project we completed – is itself exceptionally innovative in at least three different ways. It is the only commercial ensemble in France with its own tram station, the only centre that strikes a convincing balance between shopping and leisure activities and, lastly, the only centre with open air malls that function as external streets. It thus combines a mixed use programme, an environmental approach, and a high degree of interconnectedness. The centre boasts a multiplex cinema, numerous restaurants, a skating rink, an aquarium, a bowling alley, a karting track and a planetarium.
The architecture is largely metaphorical. The lower level focuses on mythology, featuring a number of allusions to Odysseus’ epic journey: Circe Square, the Enchanted Forest, Ithaca Square… Meanwhile, the upper level is inspired by a dreamlike aeronautical and spatial aesthetic based on Science Fiction films including, of course, the works of Stanley Kubrick and George Lucas. This filiation is based on both formal identities and a choice of “technological” materials. The hooded steel, aluminium and metal wings that cover much of the malls, along with the bluish nocturnal lighting, give the building the air of a parked space station.