Bird Sanctuary, Deux-Sèvres, France

A garden design itinerary

The project aimed to create a large public park devoted to bird watching and to listening to birdsong in a steep granite valley in the Deux-Sèvres region. It represented an important stage in the practice’s museum-design and landscape-design work.

Even though the project was not carried out, it nevertheless involved drawing up a project in which all the components for which the practice was responsible – landscape design, architecture, museum design – came together in a major garden design project.

Visitor reception on exiting the parking area takes place in an ancient barn whose pinion wall has been removed to open it up to the valley landscape in a spectacular fashion.

A large café with comfortable chairs in the barn offers the visitor a view across the bird sanctuary park. Entry to the park is via a red velvet spiral, acting as an “airlock” in which the visitor is bathed in the images and sounds of the valley.

After crossing an open-air sound-garden in which the visitor is able to hear birdsong relayed by an inter-active acoustic system, he or she slowly descends to the bottom of the valley where rest facilities are located.

These facilities make reference to regular domestic objects, reproduced on an unusual scale: large beds made of stone overhanging the river; basins of clear water; monumental baskets; stone armchairs, etc.

Everything has been done to allow the visitor to enjoy the silence within the space of a familiar object and to listen to the noises of the valley, in order to identify the song of different kinds of bird.

The stone bed by the river

Stone placement

Plan of the garden

River pool

A restored barn

The site consists of a wooded landscape set in the meander of a river running through granite rock in the south of the Deux-Sèvres.

This exceptional landscape, relatively protected from human disturbance, was listed in 1998 on the inventory of natural sites exceptional for their biodiversity in general and for the diversity of the bird species to be found in them in particular.

Some years ago, the community of the Commune du pays Ménigoutais set up an annual documentary film festival on bird life, which takes place in Ménigoute and which has had national success.The mayor of Ménigoute,André Dulait, decided to extend the success of the festival in 2001 by establishing a 12-hectare park that would raise people’s awareness of ornithology.

The community therefore acquired a farm occupying the promontory crossing the site and requested Studio Milou Architecture to draw up a project that would combine the architectural, landscape and design elements necessary for a wild bird sanctuary.

The project consists of a landscaped ensemble centred on a straightforward visitor itinerary, and it includes the following components:

• A visitor reception centre in the barn of a farm occupying the valley;

• A sound garden that allows visitors to listen carefully to birdsong;

• Other facilities in which the visitor will be invited to take the time to listen.

View of the reception building from the garden

Studio Milou Architecture Jean François Milou, architect, general project manager Thomas Rouyrre, architect, project manager Marta Lesouquet, assistant architect Alessandra Cianchetta, assistant architect   Technical Consultants Pierre Grillet, nature – environment Diasonic, aural study

Artistic Contributions Edison Simons, poet Bob Drewry, musician   Contracting Authority Communauté de communes du pays ménigoutais (79) Gildas Lucas Area: 70 ha Budget: 0.36 M€ excluding tax Completion Date: March 2002