In the Alsace region of eastern France, Oslo-based architectural firm Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter and French design studio Parenthèse Paysage have teamed up to transform the historic, 11-kilometer-long Rosheim-St Nabor railway into a new landmark celebrating local history, culture and the landscape. Redeveloped with curving, ribbon-like sheets of weathered steel, the area takes on new, artistic life while the dismantled tracks have been adapted for the enjoyment of cyclists and pedestrians alike. The adaptive reuse project was completed this year.

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weathered steel stairs leading up a mountainside

Opened in 1902, the 11-kilometer-long Rosheim-St Nabor railway was originally created to serve the quarries in the sub-Vosges hills and to transport passengers between five communes. To share the history of the landscape, the designers retraced the existing track and used each train stop as an opportunity to highlight different characteristics of the landscape.

Related: Old Paris railway site will transform into a carbon-neutral “ecosystem neighborhood”

weathered steel sculptures with inbuilt benches
walking path through tunnel of trees

“Ominous, sometimes hidden, the vestiges of the railway still mark the reading of the site,” the architects explained. “The journey to discover forgotten landscapes or to take a different view on everyday landscapes is addressed to both local users and tourists. Like the old track that offered a dual function (industrial and passenger transport), the route has a double vocation where the functional must rub shoulders with the imaginary of travel.”

two angular weathered steel sculptures in a park
weathered steel staircse

At the first stop at the French commune Rosheim, the designers created a labyrinthine pavilion ringed by curved sheets of weathered steel with carefully sited openings that frame select views of the landscape. To “tell the story of the past,” the train tracks are conserved in that area and viewing platforms are complemented with benches. At the next stop of Boersch, focus is placed on the river; the riverbed has been enlarged, and a large open-space amphitheater was built alongside the water.

people on observation point looking at mountains
curving weathered steel observation point

After a long, green tunnel is Leonardsau, where the designers “tell the story of the land” with two weathered steel plates that frame views toward Mont St. Odile and emphasize the transition from the forest to the open landscape. At Ottrott, a former train station has been renovated to relay the history of the railway. Lastly is the train stop for Saint-Nabor, which has been redeveloped to tell “the story of luck.” The quarries at this last stop have been gradually overtaken with nature, the views of which can be enjoyed from a dramatic weathered steel promontory with sweeping views of the landscape.

+ Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter

Photography by Florent Michel 11h45 via Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter