thecamp

Published on October 17, 2017

The Future Has Arrived in the South of France

Visitors at Discovery took a virtual trip to see the future — in Provence. Wearing VR headsets, they toured a stunning new campus for innovation called thecamp. Inaugurated on September 28, thecamp is like a UFO that has touched down in the heart of the French countryside.

Humanist Values Among the Cicadas

thecamp’s mission is to bring together people from different backgrounds — students, startup entrepreneurs, artists, executives — to interact and develop new approaches to global issues. It operates on the belief that emerging technology and social innovation can lead to a better, more inclusive, more sustainable future.

thecamp was designed to be multigenerational, going from age 8 all the way to senior experts. It is international, open to all countries, and pluridisciplinary, too.
Eric Texier, Sodexo Group’s Innovation Director

The man behind this ambitious concept was Frédéric Chevalier, a successful tech entrepreneur inspired by the concept of American campuses who tragically died in an accident shortly before thecamp opened. Initiating the project in 2013, Chevalier convinced some 20 public and private partners to support it — including Sodexo, one of the first founding partners, who signed on three years ago. Eric Texier, Sodexo Group’s Innovation Director, explained the project’s appeal: “thecamp was designed to be multigenerational, going from age 8 all the way to senior experts. It is international, open to all countries, and pluridisciplinary, too.” He said that Chevalier’s plan, to start by studying the cities of tomorrow, was another attractive feature. “Sodexo’s position is that we should deliver a better quality of life wherever people are — daycare, the office, a retirement home — and looking at all aspects of the future city made a lot of sense to us.”

A Creative Utopia

Nestled into the landscape on 17 acres near Aix-en-Provence, thecamp overlooks Cézanne’s Sainte-Victoire mountain, a pastoral environment only five minutes from the high-speed train station and a quarter hour from the Marseilles airport.

I went regularly during construction, for three years. It’s very moving to see an object like this emerge from the ground.
Eric Texier, Sodexo Group’s Innovation Director

Architect Corinne Vezzoni designed the low-carbon-footprint campus as 12 glass cylinders under a vast canopy. It holds resident housing for 300, open working spaces, a lecture room, auditorium, restaurant, maker lab, innovative sports facilities and play areas for children. Hotel rooms are minimalist, so people will go out and mingle. Food is all vegetarian and prepared by Sodexo chefs.

These outstanding resources will inspire thecamp’s “explorers” to develop, test and scale up solutions, using technology from virtual reality to robotics, all in the service of people. An ecosystem of connected intelligence and innovation, the camp plans to be a creative utopia that positively affects millions of lives.

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