An internationally renowned landscape architect, Michel graduated from the ENSP (National Graduate School of Landscape) in Versailles in 1983 where Michel Corajoud, Bernard Lassus and Giles Clement were among his teachers. It was the following year, when he created his own agency, PénaPaysages, with his wife Christine Péna, winning in 1987 a competition to landscape the newly-constructed upper deck of Paris Montparnasse station. The Jardin Atlantique as it is known was completed in 1994, a project of huge technical complexity covering more than 3.5 hectares, and symbolic for its pioneering approach to cityscape and echoes of the TGV age.
Since this high-profile introduction to the international stage, Michel has worked on many other public and private projects in France and beyond, from gardens and parks to city squares and other urban spaces. He has transformed more than 25 hectares of Paris with his keen-eyed vision and much outlying parkland has benefited from his attention to detail and holistic dynamic. In every project he associates the social element within his vision, integrating utilitarian equipment and street furniture as necessary, breaking away from pure formalism. In his project approach, he strives to always synthesize the three seemingly contradictory influences: geometry, ecology and the theory of sensitive systems.
One of Michel’s more prominent, and phenomenally successful, city projects transformed the Promenade du Paillon in Nice into a remarkable coulée verte described as a “garden aimed at consolidating the urban area via landscape”. Further city projects in Massy, Vincennes, Biarritz, and the Capucins district in Brest consolidated and enhanced his burgeoning international reputation. He has worked in Beirut and Beijing and is currently leading a major project to revitalize 75 hectares of parkland in Moscow.
Michel chaired the French Fédération du Paysage (FFP) from 2008 to 2011 and has been a member of UNESCO’s International Scientific Council since 2016. He has written three books: Petite histoire du jardin & du paysage en ville à travers les âges with Michel Audouy, Pour une troisième nature, with Christina Péna, and Jouer (jouir) du paysage in which he reflects on the emotional and poetic relationships that bind us to the environmental.
He teaches and organizes conferences at the ENSP and elsewhere including the INPH in Angers and the Bordeaux School of Architecture and Landscape and has organised and coordinated short courses for landscape and architecture students in the Cévennes region.
In embarking on the Fondation PaysSages journey in 2018, Michel is looking to cement a legacy to supercharge the cityscapes of tomorrow:
“The landscape is as much a product of the concrete as the cultural, and the originality of this project lies in its interface connecting these two opposites,” according to Michel, reflecting on this, his most ambitious project to date.
“It’s a priority issue for Nice, and we’re delighted the city is welcoming the Fondation to a remarkable site, the Abbaye de Roseland. We’ll be creating a vibrant cultural dynamic there – a melting pot for people and skills, from the world of science as much as art, and a springboard to greater awareness and achievement around the globe.”