The Roads Project

Réunion, Indian Ocean

Réunion is a volcanic island some 700km to the East of Madagascar. An Administrative Department of France, and part of the European Union, the island has a population of 850,000 people, who share the congested littorals with an eye-watering 450,000 cars. Ever since the French first populated the island, the ‘problem’ of how to connect the capital and the port has occupied the minds of engineers and politicians. The two settlements are separated by high mountains which tumble down to boisterous seas in the form of sheer and unstable cliffs. Over the last two hundred years, pack horses, boats and tunnelled-rails have forged connections and roads have been carved over and around the mountains and along the base of the cliffs.

The enthusiasm of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit took a few years to wash up on the island’s shores. When it did, ambitious plans for a tram were put in place to combat congestion and climate change. In 2010, with a change of government, these plans were scrapped and replaced with the idea of building a four-lane road bridge at sea parallel to the cliffs in the north-west corner of the island. This component of the project focuses on the history of island mobility against a backdrop of island life and the Metropolitan France and the discussions evoked by the New Route along the Littoral: extreme climate adaptation or a pharaonic environmental crime?