The housing site of Desbassayns is a privileged witness of the history of Reunion, which has been marked by slave trading. Our project is inscribed in the patrimonial and cultural environment and in the landscape of the island, in Villèle. The architectural proposition is proportionate to the scale of the site, and respectful of its specific context and newly implemented symbol. A succession of plateaus hosts the accommodation and almost all existing buildings. The built terraces carry the garden and the factory (production site of sugar cane, coffee and corn). The new entrance building is inscribed in this topographic principle: the visitors discover the place from a new terrace forming both a rooftop and a belvedere under which the hall, restaurant, service space and shops of the museums have been implemented. The two large volumes of the exhibition spaces, garnished of varnished tiles with color variations are emerging from the site to form a signal. On the rooftop-forecourt of the entrance, the view embraces the former domain, the seascape and the “plantation of memory”; a landscape memorial and immersive route set at the heart of the former fields where the slaves used to work and which leads to the farm. The discovery of the site continues through the accommodation, kitchens, farmhouse and factory. Here and there, pavilions enable the visitors to take shelter and to consult the devices of cultural mediation.

Rehabilitation of the site of Villèle, including the restauration of the Desbassayns housing, creation of a museum, arrangement of the site achieving accessibility of the ruins and factory
Villèle, La Réunion
Buildings listed historical monuments,
Département de la Réunion
h2o architectes (lead architects) with BTuA (associate architects), Michel Desvigne Paysagiste (landscape designer), Edeis (structure and fluid engineer), GIE Darwin Concept (structure, fluid and worksite engineer, external work and landscaping, economy and fire safety system) ScenEvolution (scenographer), Wanja Ledowski Studio (signage designer) et Ced Guyane (scheduling, overseeing and coordination function)
900 m² (rehabilitation), 1 630 m² (newly built), 79 ha (landscape planning)
Lost competition (2020)