Saturdays in french Province

City tour of Sarcelles

We went to Sarcelles to discover one of the "new towns" that were one of the major urban development
projects of the 1950s-1970s. Received very kindly by the sub-prefect of the district, Mr Dominique LEPIDI,
and the mayor of the town, Mr Haddad, the first visit was to the huge Nelson Mandela sports complex. The
Olympic-approved swimming pool will be used for training Olympic teams who will be competing in
neighbouring Seine-Saint-Denis. Sarcelles, with its 60,000 inhabitants divided into 91 nationalities and 15
organised communities, has a much younger population than the rest of France (25% are under 14, and half
under 29), so it’s easy to see why sporting activities are a major focus for the town council. The town itself is
not limited to the modern part around the "grand ensemble", with its architectural discoveries pioneered by JH
Labourdette and which continue to be enriched (for example with an IUT and a "Maison du Numérique"
under construction): there is an older Sarcelles: the small town before the 1950s, made up of villas and
pavilions in much more classic styles. Everything exists in Sarcelles, and the town council insists that
everything is possible, seeking to keep its spaces open, both architecturally and in human terms, to prevent
people from turning in on themselves.
After a very multicultural lunch in a brand-new restaurant offering starters, main courses and desserts of
diverse origins, the afternoon was devoted to a visit to the Château d’Ecouen, which, after having been the
educational centre of the Legion of Honour (until 1962), fifteen years later became the national museum of
the Renaissance, housing collections whose withdrawal from the Musée de Cluny in Paris made it possible to
enlarge the areas devoted to medieval art. At Ecouen, tapestry, ceramics (Bernard Palissy), glassware and
goldsmiths are on show in the sumptuous architecture of a residence designed for the Montmorency family,
"the first Christian barons". A true excursion across time and space.