Peace & Log

EuropaCity Music Venue

The Music Venue is a 7000-seat concert hall inside the future Europacity urban development. It stands in an unusual position. Its belvedere roof is a piazza at the end of the promenade from the future Gonesse train station. The project articulates the different Europacity levels through a series of horizontal and inclined plans to lead the visitor successively from the Main Street to the commercial spaces and the park.

The BIG Practice’s master plan for Europacity establishes the “Rolling Hills” idea, a very pronounced formal vocabulary. The Music venue project is nested inside the strips system that extends around the Central Park. To avoid contradiction or competition with the principles established by BIG, the Music Venue is designed as an artificial landscape that settles in the continuity of the layer system and the different public spaces levels. Its trapezoidal shape is implanted in the axis of the park and ensures the junction between this direction and that of the Main Street.

The volume of the concert hall is embedded in the lower level of the parking, partially buried. An “active” roof that integrates the flies’ volume, a technical space that becomes an element of the urban scenography, covers it. The roof is a panoramic space covered by a large openwork pergola made of circular elements and perforated by trees, all of which form the Sound Deck. The view from the Belvedere is spectacular : in the foreground, the horizontal pergola’s cutouts punctuated by trees and planted circles ; further away, Europacity’s park.

The Sound Deck and the pergola make up a horizontal plan that stretches beyond the façade of the hall and shelters the outdoor stage. This stage is framed on both sides by a “forest” of posts, thin lines that form a light vertical universe in the middle of which two stairs meander to link the Sound Deck to the outdoor stalls and offer panoramic views onto the park. On show nights, the stage is dressed with curtains and screens and changes the light and transparent daytime image of the façade.

To create a lively space outside of events times, the project integrates alternative functions linked to the show world : the Sound Deck is an acoustic space that allows to broadcast musical scores created for this specific device ; the Show Factory stages the grid and what happens behind the scene ; at the lower level a club-restaurant receives more intimate concerts outside major events ; the exterior stage is for daytime shows and public dancing lessons.

Le Bois Lilas

3 Pays

On a tri-national territory, opposite Basel-Mulhouse airport, the Trois Pays shopping and leisure centre is the starting point for the development of the new Euro3Lys district. The site is a former quarry filled with heterogeneous and polluted lands, today invaded by wild vegetation that has gradually reestablished itself. On this very well connected but difficult terrain - poor soil quality, aeronautical easements, noise pollution from the motorway, railway and airport - Unibail’s request is to reinvent the figure of the shopping centre, and to make this operation the pilot project of the group’s new "low-carbon" and "Better Places 2030" approach.

The core of the Trois Pays project is to use the territory and the environment to devise a building-landscape in a park that will begin the process of restoring nature to the site. This transformation of a polluted plot into a newly created ecosystem is designed in interaction with the neighbouring natural site of Petite Camargue Alsacienne, an extensive wetland that is a vestige of the marshy landscapes that formerly ran along the banks of the Rhine. The challenge of this project is to resolve the technical imperatives inherent to a shopping centre programme – handling visitors, efficient shopping spaces, delivery, security, vehicle access and car parks, etc. – in a combination of architecture and nature that offers a new experience, simultaneously aesthetic, physical and mental.

The architecture is designed to form a large bioclimatic system that neutralises the site’s noise and pollution constraints. It combines the two scales, the wider landscape and the nearby views. The topography of the project is flexible, emphasised and extended by the line of the park and the movements of the land, designed to shield the site from the noise of the motorway. The building volume is sculptural and unitary, embracing the horizontality required by the programme and the airport right-of-way. It is enveloped by the flexible ribbon of the facades, which unfurl in a continuous movement from the slope to the north. On the park side, the building extends into a succession of curved and planted terraces. They mould to the contours of the restaurants on the upper floor of the shopping centre, linking them directly to the park to reinforce the fusion between architecture and landscape.

Running across the roof is a planted public space, the “valley”. This long promenade climbs and crosses the building, linking the park, the roof and the concourse with a succession of sloping surfaces.

Ravet Park

The site of the silo parking project for Q Park is located on the axis of rue de Boigne, a major road in the historic city centre of Chambéry. This street, built in the first half of the 19th century, is a heritage complex that leads to the castle of the Dukes of Savoy, passing through the fountain of the Elephants. Opposite the castle, the street view will end in the parking-silo. In response to this peculiar situation, architecture proposes an element in addition to the programme : the belvedere sculpture, imagined with the artist Krijn de Koning.

The car park is arranged in a triangle with rounded corners that create vanishing lines to reduce the mass effect. The interior space is conceived as a car ride organised along a double circuit : one climbs up by gently sloping parking decks wrapped around a triangular central patio ; one descends by a cylindrical ramp around a central void.
The architectural style is based on the complementarity between the curved, minimal and translucent facades of the car park, and the orthogonal and coloured belvedere sculpture. The facades, which have 50% void for the car park to be considered as an exterior in terms of fire regulations, are made up of vertical translucent glass strips installed at 45°, with the voids leaving visual escapes towards the city.

The sculpture begins with the outside staircase, which leads directly from the public area to the belvedere independently of the car park. At the top, the bar exits cantilevered to reach the axis of Rue de Boigne. From the top, the visitor has a panoramic view to the historic town and, at the end of the street, to the castle of the Dukes of Savoy. In the other direction, the perspective of the street ends with the mountain in the distance and with this combination of volumes, the curved and translucent one of the car park and the one of the belvedere sculpture that leans there, in the axis of the road.

Hérault Arnod Studio

Espace Mayenne

Le Nantil

Cité Internationale Paul Ricœur

The plot is located at the interface between two very different urban logics: on one side, a modern district made up of wide public spaces and large-sized buildings, on the other, the historical town-centre consisting of smaller slate-roof buildings. One of the project’s challenges is to articulate the traditional city and the modern city scales, using both the organisation of its volumes and the layout of its functions.

The Cité Internationale brings together three different owners and houses four independent programmes:

  • The Sports Centre to the south on the Esplanade side (Ville de Rennes).
  • The UBL (Université de Bretagne Loire) and CMI (Centre de Mobilité Internationale) offices with their entrances on the west façade.
  • The residence for foreign academics with its entrance hall on the north façade (CROUS).
  • The university cafeteria, at the equipment’s gravity centre (CROUS).

The project organises the coexistence of the four programmes inside a single, simple and compact envelope. The building consists in a base, located in the alignment of the streets, which houses the programmes open to the public, and a high-rising volume housing the residence for academics, spiked with balconies.

The imbrications of the four programmes located at the base and which function in a totally independent way is included in a façade system, vertical rhythm alternating aluminium and glass, which unifies the whole structure inside a bright transparent envelope. The project is open on all sides and the activities inside are visible, a way to bring movement and life and liven up the public space.

To the east and to the west, the protruding polished-aluminium vertical needles system offers efficient protection from the sun. The image changes according to the view angle: almost invisible when facing them, the needles create large abstract paintings when seen sideways.

On the boulevard, the vertical building houses the residence for foreign academics. Its design creates a contrast with the lower part and it is partially separated from it by way of a void at the 4th level. Each room has its own large bay window with a French window opening onto the balcony.

On the boulevard de la Liberté, the north façade is created by the winter gardens which offer both thermal and noise insulation. The very light and simple-glazing façade alternates fixed and opening panels. Vines will be planted in the back and the whole will thus form a large green image open towards the city.

La Belle Électrique

Electronic music is a new subject for architecture. Most of the times electro nights take place in spaces that were not specially designed for them: clubs or night clubs, warehouses, fields, stadiums… For the Grenoble project, the aim was to invent a specific architectural system for a new type of spectacle and relationship with the public, whilst allowing concerts with a more traditional configuration.

The site is a former industrial district today undergoing total mutation. The hall is built next to the Magasin, the Grenoble Centre for Contemporary Art, installed in a hall built by the Eiffel workshops at the end of the 19th century. In a context undergoing total mutation (*), the project is a volume with five branches that gives equal importance to each of its sides. This multidirectional and autonomous shape frees itself from future developments, and there is no risk of its identity being weakened in the future.

The architecture is rough and efficient, enveloped in a skin made of thick larch boards set at irregular intervals. The appearance of this timber gives the architecture a character that is part archetype, part hyper-modernity. This first layer allows a glimpse into the more mysterious world of the interior. The architecture plays with the opposition between the wooden abstract and rough envelope and the façade of the hall, light and transparent suspended curved glass curtain wall. Its curved plan gives the interior volume an organic aspect, reinforcing the contrast between the envelope and the body caught inside.
The whole forms an organism with the concert hall as its heart. From this heart, the other spaces are organized.

The space is conceived so that during the concert each spectator can move and shift ambience as he/she pleases. The hall is designed like an asymmetric shell giving artists total freedom to use the space anyway they wish. Several platforms at different heights are provided for the DJs. Extending out from the hall, the “chill-out” is a calmer space, extended by balconies where people can go out to get some fresh air or smoke a cigarette during the concert.

The entrance pavilions form two urban stage scenes. They are raised and the audience thus becomes part of a stage performance inside these frames and actors of the urban spectacle, blurring the classical distinction between actor and spectator.

Le Kubb

This Contemporary Music Centre (SMAC) is a musical complex consisting of two auditoriums of very different kinds and recording studios, linked by a public space called the deck, running from one side of the building to the other. It is designed on the principle that, instead of being mere consumers of entertainment, people can construct their own evening by moving from one place to the other.

The site is a corner of the Bel Ebat fairground, on the edge of the historic town centre of Evreux. The difficulty lies in the size relation between the new building, rather small and non-central, and the fairground, a huge empty esplanade. One of the challenges of the architecture is to create a synergy with the fairground activities – fetes, flea markets, circuses, etc.

To resist and exist in relation to the vast expanse of the fairground, the structure is dense, sculptural and autonomous. The main concert hall is on the first floor and sticks out, overhanging the entrance on the northern side.
For acoustic reasons, the concert rooms and recording studios are separate concrete boxes.

The whole structure is enveloped in a light metal skin, a double wall or over-roof that acts as an additional acoustic feature. From the outside, the volume is opaque, composed of triangular facets, some of them made of polished stainless steel that reflects the surrounding trees. It is imbued with a dual internal motion, the movement of the deck that crosses it and the movement of the roof which rises gradually to envelop the main auditorium. The deck operates like an immense interior/exterior hall stretching from the street to the esplanade. This course distributes and shows the different entities: main auditorium hall, local radio station studio, recording studios and the club, live-music café with its glass double façade fan folded for acoustic reasons. The deck opens southwards to become a wide porch, an urban theatre that acts both as a terrace for the club, and as a stage for outdoor concerts or shows.

Anglet theatre

The architecture needs both to play a major, structuring urban role, and to constitute a structure that gives form to this idea of interior and exterior spaces, where new types of performance and relations with the public can take place.
In its design, the project developed through a interplay between urban, symbolic, spatial and functional factors.
Our project is a journey through a landscape of wood. We propose using a naturally Class 3 wood, a simple, warm material that envelops the entire structure, walls and roof, walkway and terraces. The outer shell is made of thick planks of raw wood, laid with irregular openings. In front of the glass sections of the boxes, these openings are more numerous and wider, providing light and views.

The volume forms a sculptural whole, built like a series of folded planes rising from the ground and developing in space. In this way, the project adapts to the slope of the terrain and creates continuities of surfaces and slanted planes that progressively generate the volume.

These surfaces are extended on the ground through walkways, ramps, stairways or plazas, which link the structure with the rest of the neighbourhood.
The entrance hall is a largely glass surface on the plaza side, opening onto the esplanade and Boulevard A. Barillet. It is slightly elevated above the esplanade, creating a bar with a huge, protected terrace, clearly visible from the market. Outdoor performances and events can take place here, using the part covered by the lobby overhang as an outdoor stage (possibility of hanging spotlights or projection equipment on the underside). The plaza stretches as far as the entrance to the media library, bringing the two amenities into close and clear connection. The volume is well anchored within the terrain. Pathways on the park side offer pedestrian access from Rue Eugène Bernain, on the other side of the plot, and then lead into a ramp which rises to the public terrace above the rehearsal room. At the end of the terrace, a sloping surface with tiered seating creates a transition with the upper part of the structure, which contains the main theatre auditorium, and is extended by the mass of the boxes. The combined terrace and seating provides a public space able to accommodate shows and a seated audience of around 300.

This advantageous location, facing south and forming a balcony over the esplanade, can be used to organise events different from those on the plaza. On market days, an orchestra or band could play here, contributing to the festival atmosphere and creating an additional interaction between the market and the new facility. Another possibility would be more small-scale events, such as readings or “literary snacks” organised by the media library.

The architecture develops a dynamic interaction with the site, sensitive to the existing lines of force. It forms a sculptural whole, arising from a firm topographical attachment to the site. The architecture is both open, to foster acceptance, and mysterious, to generate desire. With its strong identity, the building forms a landmark in the town without being either imposing or monumental.

Archaeological Museum Park

This archaeological museum will house Neolithic and mediaeval objects found at the bottom of lake Paladru. The competition’s aim was to replace, in a reduced version, the museum project designed by HAA in 2000.

Our project’s architecture articulates the site’s micro scale, with its proximity constraints, and the large landscape. The volume is built upon two intersecting naves, their ridges at right angle from each other pointing towards the site’s two major directions : on one side the Museum’s nave, in the lake’s axis ; on the other side the temporary exhibition hall’s nave, facing the Grands Roseaux archaeological site. The building « looks » in these two directions, escaping the domestic environment visible on the neighbouring lots.

The project’s morphology is due to our work on the roofing, a reference to local vernacular architecture characterised by the important volume of flat-tiles roofs. The village’s ancient adobe barns are good examples. The project, with its faceted volume, establishes a “friendly” relationship with the village context, a balance between mimesis and singularity.

Using a single material, terracotta, allows a contemporary treatment that erases the traditional distinction between roof and façade, to create a continuous volume. The flat tiles’ brown colour, in harmony with the built environment, gradually becomes blue in the upper part, reflecting the lake.

The project is dense, with no loss of space. The hall rises up to the top of the building, revealing the roof’s inflections. In the back, a glass wall reveals the outside workshops. The exhibition spaces are upstairs ; each is organised beneath one of the two naves. The roof gives the space an archetypal aspect.
The tour ends with a belvedere and a protected terrace projecting the visitor towards the milieu from which he started : THE LAKE.

Office building

In the rather dense and mineral railway-station district of the city of Massy, this project is a bioclimatic garden-building, a cut-up geography generating terraces and planted surfaces. Tailored as a relief, the structure creates a folding movement around the central garden.

A revamped classic 18-meters long office-block forms the volume. The strip’s inflexions and different heights are subject to the urban templates and the orientation requirements. The 10- to 18-meters large inner garden is generous and planted in a very natural spirit. The whole forms a privileged working space where the relationship with light, sun and green prevails. The pathways give access to wooden terraces on the garden-roofs, offering a relationship with the outside which contributes to the quality of everyday life.

The black facades are cut-up by seemingly randomly set large windows but designed on a 1.35 m. pace. The glass plane is set back, the doorways are clad with a lacquered metal frame which hides the joineries so that only the glass is visible even when the windows are open.

Brest Arena

This building is a “Swiss army knife” for shows which reconciles optimally multisport activities, shows and concerts as well as congresses.

The volume is compact, in the line with controlled economy and optimal land occupancy. The combination of this compactness and great technical rigour in the design of passive solutions is embodied in an organic form that envelops the competition and concert hall, and the training hall in a single movement.

The building is a naturally ventilated « machine ». The roof is a “technological landscape” made up of north-facing ventilation and lighting chimneys. Inside the main hall, these chimneys, positioned above the arena, form a series of hollow conical volumes. Around the chimneys, the ceiling is composed of suspended foam cylinders that are part of the phonic absorption system. The technical solution generates the architectural signature.

With its peripheral balcony, its horseshoe layout when the stage is set, its acoustic ceiling and its moulded wood shell seats, the 5000 seats hall is designed as a performance hall where sports events can take place, and not the other way round.

The acoustics were submitted to extremely high level modelling to find the right balance between absorption and reflection, to solve the problem of infra bass during concerts without creating a too matte-sounding hall during other events.

The curved volume is entirely clad with natural aluminium that reflects the changing lights in the Brest skies. To emphasise this moving image, the ambulatory hall which surrounds the main hall unfurls fluidly depending on internal needs. On the square, the facades are transparent. Their upper part is opaque, gradually transforming into a latticework made of intersecting blades. In the daytime, the latticework filters light and allows a glimpse of the interior spaces, creating a certain sense of mystery. At night, the perception is very different. The interior lights up and the main hall’s orange volume appears in the background. The pattern of the latticework stands out against the light. The image is festive, an invitation to come inside.

9-9bis, requalification of the mine site

The Oignies coalmine closed down in 1990, leaving an entire population out of work and in great economic disarray. The buildings, superb industrial monuments dating from the early 20th century, remained. What was to be done with them? Apart from the heritage element, what sort of development strategy would be best for the site? These were the questions raised in the definition study begun in 2004. This study was divided into two parts, a programme proposal and a project proposal. We propose converting the whole mine into a place dedicated to music and sound. The project has different levels: a general master plan which places a priority on the need for a mix of functions (cultural, economic, housing, etc.), conversion of the existing buildings, construction of new buildings and a park which will cover the old “timber park” and the slag heap.

Our project is based on the idea of giving the site a positive image through a cultural project, in order to jumpstart the local economy and encourage new businesses to move in and create jobs :

Operate a reversal of image... from the existing heritage and provide links to the larger region to create the conditions for the site to develop. The transformation process requires a refurbishment of the existing buildings, which are retained with all the original machines. The foundations of the project lie in its legacy, symbolic and physical dimensions and the unique character of the site.
... and of use: music! The mine as a workplace was both extremely tough and very lively. Noise, permanent, obsessive and often intolerable, was an inseparable feature of the history of the place. Today, the purpose of dedicating the site to music and sound is to transform what used to be a nuisance into a creative and attractive forward-looking theme.

The project’s ambitions are local, but also national and even international. For this reason, in addition to the revitalised historical legacy, the project needed a contemporary act which would crystallise the site’s new acoustic and musical orientation. To achieve this, we have created a strange and mysterious object of desire, which exists nowhere else: the Metaphone.
Jumpstarting the economy: a small service district is created near the old buildings, and housing is to be built in the former timber park. Within the dynamic of the project, other economic zones are developing.

The first office building, the BT01, is under construction. Its architecture results from slotting a small existing building into a new part which overhangs above the tile roof. The old building is reflected in the facade and underside of the overhang, which are lined with polished stainless steel, creating an ambiguity about the boundary between old and new.

The project’s game rules are clear: all the new buildings are resolutely modern and innovative, while the existing fabric is retained, the facades left as they are, and all the modern internal alterations are reversible, leaving the possibility that the buildings could one day be restored to their initial state. The new functions are installed like a “new layer”, today’s layer, with the roughness and beauty of the spaces being retained. The approach is to “furnish” – the new enclosed spaces needed are treated as large pieces of furniture – and to avoid any ambiguity between the pre-existing and the added. The pithead structures, classified as listed buildings, are monumental and powerful. The machine building will house the reception hall, exhibition rooms and sound gallery, the ballroom and a concert cafe. The rehearsal rooms and recording studios will be installed in the old changing rooms and the “hanging room”. The restaurant will be developed around the machines in the compressor hall, the ballroom around the lift cable drum...

9-9bis, The Metaphone®

The Metaphone® is the contemporary keystone of the conversion project of the Fosses 9/9bis site in Oignies, This building symbolizes the site’s new musical and acoustic role. An architecture of materials, sound and light, a building to be looked at and listened to, an immense instrument played by musicians who are alternately invisible or in the limelight. The musical flow of the site strikes its walls and makes them sing. And like music, it is inscribed in time, in the passing of time: it is transformed into harmonies of sound and colour, fluid, fleeting, but constantly renewed, which are the spirit of the place.

The Metaphone® is both concert hall and “urban musical instrument”, whose walls produce and diffuse sounds outside, in harmony with the play of light. The concert hall and its annexes are contained within a volume of black concrete, itself wrapped in a light skin made of scales of different materials: ground glass, Corten steel, wood panels. This scaly skin extends outwards and opens above the concourse, forming a great porch protecting the entrance and terrace. Between the concrete mass and the scaly skin, attached to a metallic structure, technical walkways are provided for installing and maintaining the sound and lighting equipment. On the roof, the lattice of scales extends into a sheet of integrated photovoltaic cells.

There are two principles of sound production: the first is produced by two groups of mechanical instruments (2 x 12) installed under the porch; the second is electroacoustic, produced by vibrating bowls mounted on the plates to form loudspeaker membranes. These systems have been developed and tested by making a prototype of the musical facade, composed of 8 modules measuring 1.2 m, half fitted with an acoustic instrument, the other half with vibrating plates.

Sound and architecture are inseparable. The dimensions of the hall offer a paying area equal to that of an immense orchestra. It is an exceptional space which will make it possible to invent musical forms commensurate with the architecture.

The Metaphone® is altogether a “secular bell”, marking the hours, midday or sunset, signalling the beginning of a concert or the interval, and a device that produces a peripheral sound space, discreet so as not to inconvenience the neighbours. It can also be used as an instrument in an orchestral composition, with the musicians playing beneath the porch.

9-9bis, Office Building

The first completed part of the 9-9bis mine conversion project in Oignies is this small office building. It is based on a small brick construction built at the beginning of the XXth century, a former garage, with a modern addition.

The new part is attached to the existing structure and the top floor extends into an overhang above the roof. The facade of the existing house and the wall below the overhang are faced with mirrored stainless steel panels, which reflect the brick walls and the tile roofing: this mirror effect blurs the boundaries between the old and new sections.

The structure of the new building is steel, picking up the construction logic and the materials of the old mine buildings, which are primarily brick, with technical adjuncts made of steel (mineshafts, water tower, frames, etc.). The top floor overhang is supported by two external truss beams, which also pick up the essence of the mine buildings. The glass facades alternate between fixed sections, made of clear glass protected by external blinds, and opening sections, made of tinted glass with a very low solar factor. Openwork metal walkways outside the offices provide users with an extended outdoor space, as well as a platform for maintenance work on the glass facades.

Residential building Zac Blanche Monier

This 24 apartments building was designed to enable its occupants to live in the city as if in a house, with a privileged relation to the outdoors. It is located in the Ile Verte, a heterogeneous district of Grenoble by the Isère River, made up of detached houses, small apartment blocks and workshops. It meets official low energy consumption (BBC) standards with renewable energy.

All the apartments are dual exposure and extend into a large, continuous, west facing terrace. The apartments at the ends of the building have triple exposure. All of them are served by an outdoor walkway with protection on the eastern side. The building is designed for easy daily bicycle use: each apartment has a cycle lock-up, protected by openwork clapperboard painted like garden sheds, with space for several bikes. The lift is also big enough to accommodate bicycles.

The building is very compact. For optimum use of space, the stairwell and lift are in a separate unit, linked to the main volume by a walkway. This open structure is surrounded by vegetation: lines of planting boxes with automatic watering systems accommodate climbing plants that will gradually wrap around the cables and nets stretched between the floors. The staircase thus becomes an integral part of the garden that the occupants cross to reach their apartments. The building is simple in shape, a rhomboid punctuated lengthways by running terraces on the western side and by walkways on the eastern side.

507 project

Urban Living

Densification is the antidote to urban sprawl and to over-consumption of the territory, but how to live in the dense city, how can it be made pleasant to live in and desirable? The necessity to contain city growth offers the opportunity to imagine new types of dwellings: collective, to preserve land, but offering a feeling of independence and freedom of use of both inner and exterior spaces.

The issue of densification requires different answers that vary according to the urban situations. Berlin is a very green city. Vegetation is everywhere. The project’s site is located in a peripheral district where nature’s presence is strongly felt: parks, gardens, lakes, forests, etc. It is a low-density district made up of 1930s villas and small collective buildings. The densification must preserve and reinforce the particularly pleasant quality of life.

The villa-building we propose is based on the archetype of the house as a microcosm assuring the mediation with the macrocosm. It creates a common universe in a diversified whole: what vernacular architecture has succeeded in producing over the years. It’s a compact pattern that shows the utmost concern to the continuum between inside and outside, so as to live in the city as in a house and feel nature’s rhythms.

Our project is a vertical housing system which defines above-ground individual territories as an alternative to the classic private housing estate. It sets up a combination of different size “villas” contained inside a parallelepiped with an efficient shape coefficient and dimensions similar to that of the surrounding collective buildings. The other part is dedicated to the exterior extensions, terraces and hanging gardens, that create a vertical landscape. The “villas” are accessible through exterior passageways connected by 2 stairs and 1 or 2 lifts.
Each accommodation has certain features of the individual house: vast exterior extensions allowing various types of appropriation (vegetable garden, pergola, lunch in the sun…), direct access from outside, individual and flexible-use “garden shed”, possibility to reach one’s front door by bike, etc.

Chirens college

The Chirens site is a beautiful and unusual hilly countryside. The architecture’s relationship to the natural and built landscapes is central to our approach. The surrounding hills offer multiple viewpoints on the building; the treatment of the roofing is thus particularly important.

The college is a rather imposing facility compared to the houses that make up the surrounding environment. All the functions are organised under a low continuous landscape-roof. This roof rises from the ground and extends to cover the premises organised on one or two levels. It is a wood and grass relief; its design is a triangulation-game that rises from the ground. A grass surface starts horizontally at ground level, rises obliquely and extends to form the CDI volume, a privileged space located on the second floor, at the gravity centre of the whole project and open towards the Clermont tower. The grass surface, by crossing the wood surfaces, reduces the mass effect by generating an ambiguity between what belongs to the landscape and what belongs to the building: natural and built elements blend together.

All the classrooms have a north/south orientation. They are distributed on two levels by an open passageway bordered by tinted raw-concrete walls. Inside, starting from the transparent hall, the circulations are fluid and evident and all naturally lit. The internal organisation is simple and functional.

Wood is the main material, for the façade, as roof toping and for the structure, along with concrete and steel. The classrooms’ facades alternate solid and glass irregular vertical strips. The prefabricated solid parts are made of full-height wood caissons clad with Alpine larch. The floors are made using the mixed “wood/concrete” technique.

Oenological centre

The impressive and magnificent Castle Abbey of Cassan lies between two hills overlooking a Mediterranean landscape, a mosaic of vineyards, garrigues and woods. Anchor point of the Corporate Wellness Centre project of which the Oenology Centre is an extension, the castle is more than just a beautiful monument: it becomes an essential element for the territory’s social and economical life and thus rejoins today’s world.

The Oenology Centre faces the castle, on the opposite side of the vale and represents the other geographic end of a single project. The nature of the dialogue between the historical monument and today’s project is essential. The new architecture must offer a contemporary answer to the castle while taking into account a village-outskirts environment made up essentially of villas.

Our project is a synthesis between the data of a programme, the peculiarity of which is that it groups many types of different functions, and this unusual territorial location. The Centre brings together three operational entities: the cellar, the public reception space and the hotel and restaurant. We designed a layout allowing each entity to both function independently and be an integral part of a coherent whole; this combination generates the specific identity.

The Oenology Centre’s architecture creates a microcosm centred on winemaking where comfortably accommodated visitors stand at the heart of the winemaking activity and can see and taste the production. To create this microcosm we imagined a hybrid and unusual universe in which each element interacts with the others, the whole acting as a landmark in the landscape, echoing the Castle.

Student residence

La Maison des Étudiants is a student residence built in the 1930s. It is an eight-storey building, sober in style, part of the skyline of the Grands Boulevard, a distinctive urban feature of the city of Grenoble. The project was to regenerate the structure by remodelling the existing building and constructing Cité Galilée, a residence for foreign researchers. This paradoxical assembly of an old building and a modern graft generates a new entity, a composition in which each of the elements reinforces the other’s identity.

The challenge was to draw the right volume, given that the space available was extremely tight, extremely constrained, and that the views from the rooms in the existing building had to be protected. The design of the extension is determined by this requirement for coexistence.

Modern in its style and distinctive in colour, Cité Galilée is a new growth grafted onto the existing structure. The volume is sculpted to adapt to the views and to comply with planning requirements which define a diagonal mass. The transparent ground floor holds the communal spaces. The third floor includes a communal terrace. From here on up, the bedrooms are distributed on either side of a glass-enclosed gangway. The Eastern facade is folded to provide views over the Bastille, Grenoble’s iconic mountain, from every room, and each room extends into a balcony.

Inside, the platforms have been cleared to make way for a new layout for the bedrooms, which have become fully equipped studios. Each has a bathroom, a separate WC, a kitchen, a built-in bed, a desk and storage space. Their ergonomics have been tailored down, with the aim of making maximum possible use of the available space within a tight budget. The studio includes a sleeping and studying area to the front, and a lower volume for the entrance, kitchen, bathroom and WC. The latter is styled like a large piece of furniture, lined with multiply birchwood panels. This same material is also used for the beds, the desks and the shelving.

The Mobile Station

The “Mobile Station” brings together in a single location all the parties involved in the issue of transport and travel within the city of Grenoble in order to offer global vision and better management of traffic. The aim is to bring about the coexistence of autonomous entities that have to be able to work together and to create a communication tool that reflects the local transport policy.

The building is an autonomous and sculptural structure, situated at the foot of an imposing and monumental 1950s office building on the “Grands Boulevards”.
The Mobile Station operates like a mechanism in which every separate component part interacts with the others to form an efficient machine. The different rooms and their associated spaces are organised around the Exploitation room and the Crisis room. The global shape of the building is the polygon defined by the contours of the land, but scooped out by the notches that define the profile of each room. These notches bring natural light into all the spaces while preventing direct views from the street.

In a central position from both the plane and cross-sectional perspectives, the crisis room is a circular space with “branches” that provide views on the different rooms and their screens, so that in “crisis meetings” information and real-time events can be tracked as they happen. This volume within the volume is suspended above the computer areas.

In a reference to the multiple screens – iconic and characteristics objects of the modern era – which populate the building, the outside walls are faced with a metal skin upon which aluminium disks are fixed that form an array of pixels. Behind the disks, the background is lit by diodes, which transform the appearance of the architecture at night. A computer program varies the lighting and colour of the diodes, enveloping the building in a shifting, expressive skin.

Mountain huts

For Isabelle de Beaufort’s project, “Neige de Culture”, we have created a stage furniture for the Serre-Chevalier ski slopes. The aim of “Neige de Culture” is to provide themed cultural itineraries on subjects such as the history of the Romans in the Alps or that of Vauban in Briançon.

The stories that unfold during these itineraries are underpinned by stage scenery elements such as huts, totem poles and triangulation rocks. These are all unusual objects. They are identical in order to create a specific identity that is easy to pick out in the landscape. They constitute the landmarks that punctuate the different themed stages of the itineraries and create a link between the cultural project and the landscape in which they are embedded and embodied.

The 17 huts are open structures, which suggest interiority whilst remaining outdoor spaces that can be skied into and through. Each of them identifies a stage of discovery and contains 3 totem poles or exhibition boards.

The huts are made of a succession of parallel multiply timber arches that generate an organic structure. They all have the same shape, but their appearance varies with their location. They mimic their environment, white at the top of the slope, where white dominates; untreated larch closer to the larch forests. The huts are light constructions which etch shadows in the snow. They look opaque or transparent, depending on the angle of view.

They were totally prefabricated and delivered on-site pre-assembled in 3 parts by helicopter.

Rossignol Global Headquarters

The image of Rossignol, historic leader in the world of skiing, is intimately linked with the mountains and with snow. The project for its worldwide headquarters has nothing to do with the stereotypical office building, but is in harmony with nature and the peaks, and at the same time with technology, which is inseparable from high-level sport. The architecture has been designed specifically for Rossignol, a fusion of the company’s functional and imaginative aspects in a radical and minimalist form: it is inspired by board sports, by fluidity of motion, and also by reliefs, snow and glacier sculpted by the elements. The roof, which envelops the whole project, is a timber-clad topography which echoes the profile of the surrounding mountains.

The “home of Rossignol” brings together the different entities of the firm. The roof covers three types of space:

  • The racing ski production workshop, the brand’s technological showcase.
  • The street, a bright and spectacular space of social encounter, which runs through the building from side to side.
  • The office floors, which include the administrative and the R&D.

On the motorway side, the curved facade becomes a roof over the workshops and then on to the apex, before descending again on the other side to cover the office area. It is then broken up with planted shale-paved patios, so that nature and building overlap. The irregular profile of the roof and office facades leaves the opportunity for future extensions; additions can be built without disrupting the balance and identity of the project. From the start, the architecture embodies its own growth process.

Inside, the building functions like a “hive” in which the different activities intersect and communicate. Each person in his or her diversity – engineer, designer, technician, secretary, salesman, etc. – meets in reciprocal encounter. The restaurant, situated right at the top and at the centre of gravity of the street, is designed as the primary nucleus of company life: two great glasshouses divide up the panoramic views to the sky and the mountains. A large roof terrace is provided for alfresco lunching,

Only two materials are used for the external envelope: wood (natural larch) and glass. The structure is made of steel, the post and beam frame of the service floors spans distances of 12 to 16 metres to leave the space as free as possible. Above the workshop the timber over-roof hides all the machinery so that no technical components are visible. The exterior form is unblemished, abstract.

Office Building – Porte des Lilas, Paris

The Paris/Suburbs fringes perform a particular symbolic role.

The plot for this offices and business premises building is located avenue René Fonck which links Porte des Lilas to Pré-Saint-Gervais The avenue is typical of the urban sequences that mark the shift from Paris to the inner suburbs, beyond the Périphérique, with its changes of pattern, scale and type: passing from the dense and continuous fabric of inner-city Paris to the more varied fabric of the suburbs.

The building stands where these different logics meet. It sits in the axis of the Périphérique, coming from the West, and its elevated position offers a distant panorama, a relationship with the large urban landscape.
The project increases the urbanity and the density in the lower part of the site, along the rue René Fonck, and extends the green space on the eastern side in order to emphasise the residential character of Rue Raoul Wallenberg.

The base of the U-shaped building consists in two floors of business premises distributed by a route and a technical courtyard. Above come four floors of office space and, at the top, two attic levels which group specific spaces for receptions and reunions. These last floors, surrounded by terraces, offer a totally open view on the Plaine Saint-Denis, right up to Roissy airport. In its central part, the hall and the floors above, offer a transparency of view between the street and the interior courtyard.

The facades are made up of large windows, all of which can be opened, equipped with BSO (Brise-Soleil Orientable/directional sun-shade)(*) blinds that automatically come down according to the temperature and to the sunlight. The solid parts are clad with thick aluminium (profile created for the project).

The Bicycle building

What do people look for from a house in the suburbs that they don’t get in town, why would they rather have a detached house than an apartment? Analysing the reasons for this could help us devise urban housing that is a better match for modern aspirations. Apart from the eternal desire for a garden, a recent study shows that approximately 40% of the area of a detached house these days is used to store objects of different kinds: food, clothes, tools, bicycles, surfboards, skis, etc.

Borrowed from the detached house for this project, this storage element becomes the essence of the apartment building. The apartments are connected by a wide outside walkway on the street side, with entrance to each apartment by a private balcony. Located between the walkway and the building’s main structure are volumes that contain the storerooms and bathrooms. They alternate with empty spaces running the whole height of the building. The “boxes” are clad with perforated corrugated steel sheet in different colours, which individualise the apartments and together create an expansive, dynamic and contrasted façade – an unpatterned and lively composition.

The lifts are big enough to carry bicycles, whilst the galleries form a panoramic promenade with views over the Belledonne chain. People enter their homes as they would a house, from the outside. The architecture of the storage and distribution system is designed for a project situated at the end of the cycle path network developed by the town of Grenoble. Residents will be able to reach their front doors on rollerblades, scooters, bicycles, etc., and then store their wheels in a safe place.

Inside, the pillar and slab structure allows great flexibility of layout and partitioning that is independent of the structural framework. The apartments are dual-aspect, simple in shape, easy to organise spatially either along traditional partitioning (day/night separation) or more flexibly, with an open-plan layout. The kitchens open onto terraces big enough for outdoor eating, and are situated on the side overlooking the garden.

Vertical housing estate system

The apartment-houses/house-buildings are rooted in the fictional yet paradigmatic archetype of the house as a microcosm that creates a connection with the macrocosm. In them, the poetic quest is paramount. They generate distinctive locations but also community within a diversified whole – something a vernacular architecture has managed to produce over time.

In this way they try to counter the pitfalls of claustrophobia and dispersal. They seek harmony with the urban environment through a compact layout that places maximum emphasis on the continuum between inside and outside. Home will be more than a shelter. A space-time of privacy and community, of closeness to and distance from the landscape, of mobility and stability, the dimensions physically embody the rhythms of day-to-day life. To be with others whilst having a hallway like a townhouse, to be able to install a table, chairs, to walk in the open air… The opposition between the indoor and outdoor world is removed. It is being able to live in the city while experiencing the rhythms of nature: day, night, seasons, the connection with the sky, the plant world.

Our scheme is a vertical housing estate system that provides private non-dwelling areas as an alternative to the traditional detached housing estate. It introduces a combination of “houses” of different sizes contained within a rhomboid with a shape coefficient close to that of a cube, which occupies half the volume of the plot. The other half is given over to outdoor extensions, terraces and elevated gardens, which form a vertical landscape. Each dwelling has the features of a detached house: large outdoor extensions that can be used for various purposes (vegetables, chickens, arbour, etc.), outside access, an individual “garden shed” that residents can adapt as they want, the possibility of cycling right to the front door, etc

International centre of graphism

English text

Cultural, Sports and Congress Centre at Les 2 Alpes

Like many winter sports resorts built in the 1960s, the 2 Alpes village has identity problems: large buildings put up with no overall design rationale, chaotic relationship with the landscape... Looking for a new image to counter the expressions of a sometimes excessive modernity, the mountains want to return to their roots. The client wanted a "traditional" building, which is totally outside our normal fields of interest. We transformed the requirement by making this project an experiment in divergence from the traditional mountain architecture language and from the archetypal chalet.

The project is contained within a basic rectangular structure with dual-section roofs, like a barn. It is a telescopic structure split into 3 nested sections – the sports hall, the hall and communal spaces, the theatre. Both walls and roof are entirely faced with wood.

Wood is used here as a cultural referent for the mountain image. The timber motif came into traditional regional architecture with the invention of the band saw. It is on the rise again because of the development of automatic cutting systems and computer-controlled cutting. Reflecting the return to popularity of this technique, the whole height of the sports hall is covered with a timber lacework based on a motif copied from the guard rails of an old chalet. The pattern, bloated and multiplied to form a regular grid, changes its status and becomes a repetitive, abstract composition.

Inside the sports hall and the communal spaces, the walls and ceilings are faced with boards, some of them in natural wood and others painted in several colours, in order to generate a sort of "dyeing” effect.

The performance hall, with its black painted concrete walls and ceilings, is topped with a large red snowflake-shaped chandelier, which provides both light for the bleachers and acoustic correction

“L’ombrière”

The project is a piece of climatic architecture installed under a great pergola which creates widespread shade, like an extension to the pine forests. The building is divided into three pavilions: the performance hall, the association centre and the media library. It is situated on a dock between the Vaucluse Canal and a lake.

The facades are mostly made of glass, but protected from the sun, giving a sense of transparency and lightness without the risk of overheating. The great pergola, a reinterpreted reference to the traditional Mediterranean garden, is made up of autonomous circular components including a mast and a metallic structure covered with wooden strips to create shade: the "ombrières" (sunshades).

The circles of sunshades are linked together to form a layer in the same formal register as the parasol pines or the waterlilies on the lake.
Between the pavilions are shady patios containing the entrances and offering passages and lines of sight between the park and the canal. The multipurpose hall is a convertible "magic box", with great sliding panels on the walls so that the hall can be opened up to the exterior. Thus, beyond the layouts required in the programme, it is possible to extend all the activities out of doors, and to transform the hall into a stage for big summer events: festivals, concerts, etc.

European cultural centre

In the complex mediaeval fabric of the centre of Aachen, the urban function of the future EKAA – House of European Culture – is to finish framing the Katschhof Square, a place emblematic of mediaeval Europe, with the Dome of Charlemagne standing at one end.

The project’s exterior envelope consists of a lattice that makes reference both to the theme of Europe and to that of the stained-glass window, a historic feature that is present on the site. Its design is inspired by the map of the regions of Europe, an identity born of the union of singularities.

The building’s image is produced by this envelope composed of a multitude of different modules of glass. The combination of these modules creates a three-dimensional stained-glass structure, echoing the stained-glass windows of the façade of the Dome, which closes the southern side of the square.

The lattice is a self-supporting stainless steel structure. It holds the glass volumes on the façade, which alternate with solid modules and photovoltaic cells on the roof. This latticework envelops the whole building, determining the urban scale and controlling the temperature.

Set back from the lattice, the exhibition rooms are organised into a closed, two-storey volume. By contrast with the shape of the envelope, which is determined by the plot and the urban requirements, the design of the exhibition rooms is simple and calm, based on a square measuring 27 m x 27 m. The open, pillar-free layout makes it possible to accommodate any type of exhibition and scenography, with natural or artificial lighting. In the space between the lattice/stained-glass window and the volume of the exhibits are installed the main system for movement between floors together with the salons, which provide a moment of rest during the visit and framed views onto the exterior.

Val-de-Marne Development Agency

This commission asked a generic and ordinary question: how do you turn a standard block of offices into something other than a neutral place exuding a déjà-vu feeling?
The Val-de-Marne Development Agency, the Department’s economic showcase, had rented offices which it wanted to convert to convey an up-to-the-minute image of creativity, warmth and openness

The primary feature of this project was its very tight timetable: the first phase of the work was delivered two and a half months after signature of the project management contract, preliminary studies included.

The challenge was therefore to find a balance between creativity and speed and to meet the timetable by minimising on-site operations and tasks. Deciding on materials and implementation methods required a strict methodology and close and direct liaison with suppliers, with decisions being taken on the basis of available stock, delivery and assembly times, etc.

The Agency is a recent structure, which is likely to change in the coming years. Simple, light and mobile principles were adopted in order to make the space both easy to alter and highly fluid: curtains to convert the meeting room into a screening room; transparent interview cubicles that convert into more intimate spaces; a big sliding wall between the multimedia room and the hall; wheeled furniture to allow quick layout changes; movable hanging exhibition panels, etc.

The treatment of the ceiling is an important element in the visual identity of the space. It consists of perforated, white metal panels, alternating with 7 cm wide strips housing a random pattern of lines of colour and lines of embedded lighting. Together, it forms a continuous surface covering the whole space with a lively graphic array of colour and light.

Mixed-use building

This building, built to very tight financial constraints, encompasses two clients and four independent functional entities: business and shopping premises, a first-floor public car park, social housing and a condominium. The architectural aspect of this project is highly political. It expresses the city’s need for a social and functional mix, by making the juxtaposition of differences the basis of its identity.

The plot is triangular in shape, with streets running along each side. It is built to the maximum possible dimensions in order to incorporate a public car park which was originally an independent project: it was supposed to be built by the city in the basement of our plot and under the adjacent public garden. We therefore suggested, to rationalize the work and to allow the implementation of an open ground garden, that the car park be incorporated into the building for which we were responsible, which led to substantial savings.

The building expresses its mixed character, since each element of the programme is grouped along a horizontal stratum with one or more levels. The whole building is designed to comply with the required dimensions (9, 17, 24 and 30 metres, depending on the roads):
Private garages and cellars in the basement
Entrance halls, service and shopping premises on the ground floor.
Public car park on the 2nd and 3rd floor, under a 9 m high horizontal.
Residential rental properties on the 3rd and 4th floors: they are designed on a strip-housing type design, to a 4.65 m grid, and are arranged around a communal terrace-courtyard (3rd floor). The apartments are accessed from the outside, and each has a private entrance terrace and a balcony overlooking the street. The pleated façade allows all the apartments a southern exposure.
Above, the first-time buy apartments are grouped into an autonomous structure bristling with balconies (from the 5th to the 9th floor). They are accessed by glass enclosed gangways to the north.

Archaeology Museum Park of Paladru

The site is an extensive protected wetland, at the western end of Lake Paladru. The museum, unbuilt, was to house objects found in the remains of Neolithic and mediaeval villages submerged under the waters of the lake. The museum’s architecture, poetic and mysterious, springs from the landscape, in a quest for fusion with nature.

The lake has created a remarkable landscape, an extremely readable territory unified by the standing water of the lake. The wetland where the museum-park was to stand offers a particularly rich ecological environment, because of its position at the interface between water, earth and air. The wetland functions as a sponge. The water dynamics, due to quantitative and temporal variations, is the site’s ecologic engine.

The building extends along an axis 160 metres long, perpendicular to the contour lines: it is situated "with the grain of the water". It is elevated so as not to create a break in the landscape. The extension of the reed bed around the building emphasises this effect of a structure that has sprung from nature. The wetland is not interrupted and seems to run under the building. The "underside" is a wide, roofed pontoon, which extends far out into the lake and contains all the accesses: public, staff, boat moorings, starting point for walks in the park and to reconstructions of Neolithic and mediaeval villages.

The museum is a landmark in the landscape. We wanted it strange and mysterious to inspire curiosity, incite a visit. It resembles a branch, whose main stem and twigs bend to meet the axis of the lake. This reference to plant morphology gives the structure a certain freedom, despite the fact that it is built to a strict controlling plan.

The tour of the museum is linear, a sequence of all the itineraries available in the park. The scenography concept led to an alternation between opaque and transparent spaces. To generate a unified whole and avoid breaking up the line, all sides of the structure are enveloped in a wooden lattice which suggests an airy web in its construction. By contrast, the background materials of the facades, behind the lattice, are bright, as if precious: glass, metal, coloured lacquer work. By erasing the traditional attributes of a building (doors, windows, roofs), the project conveys an abstract impression. The filter, by allowing a glimpse of the structures contained within, like objects in a basket, contributes to the mystery.

“Pôle Sud” Skating Rink

As an extension of the spirit of the 1968 Winter Olympic Games, the skating rink is a defining project for Grenoble. Nevertheless, the client was keen that it should also be an economical building. The response is a "high-density" project, a synthetic architecture that is both optimised and generous, compact, friendly and lively.

The skating rink is situated in the south of Grenoble, in a 1970s neighbourhood where the focus of urban planning was economic efficiency, and on cars to the exclusion of pedestrians. The public space is distended, undifferentiated and confused.
The project forms a rectangle, running along Avenue d’Innsbrück, which is one of Grenoble’s southern entries. The structure is designed to be simple and distinctive, and to tauten the layout of the avenue that signifies arrival in the city.

The programme comprises two skating rinks, one 3500 seater stadium for competition, and the other for public use.

The building’s shape is generated by the layout of the ice rinks, which determined the floor plan and the contours of the facades in a way that combines compactness and fluidity.
Around the main rink, the seating is arranged to form an arena close to the ice, with the entrance hall forming a concentric ring that follows the external outlines of the building.
The two ice rinks are positioned along a single axis, and all the elements of the programme are combined under a continuous roof structure. This forms a horizontal roofline at its edges, a marquee that holds the whole composition together.
This governing plane twists into a convex shell covering and increasing the height of the competition rink, and into a concave shell over the recreational rink. The roof forms a fifth facade, a relief-plan covered with inset aluminium strips (Kalzip).
Inside there is a contrast between the raw materials of the structure – concrete seating, galvanised steel roof – and the colour range of the floors, stairways, seats, etc.: aniseed green, fuchsia, dark orange, turquoise blue, ultramarine.

The conceptual principle of the skating rink is semiotic minimalism: the image sought is one of understated significance, in poetic connection with the raw material of skating: ice.
The facades are like a vertical sheet of ice which unfurls in a flexible ribbon around the building, evoking the movement of the skaters, the fluidity and continuity of gliding. The ribbon moulds to the contours of the building, like a stocking stretched over contracting muscle. The "ice" effect is produced by the depth, the transparency, the vibration of matter.
This effect is achieved by means of a double facade, which will consist of one efficient, technical, industrial type surface, spray-painted on its outer side with blue-and-white graphics, and clad in a translucent polycarbonate ornamental skin. Between the two skins, lines of optical fibres will diffuse light to make the material "vibrate" and to accentuate the sense of depth at night.

The interior roof structure of the main rink is a very light latticework, made up of tubular steel sections 6 m long, intersecting to form a shell supported by posts, themselves linked by tie-rods. Together, the resulting vertical trapeziums form a sort of spatial "cushion", spanning a space measuring twenty four metres by fifty metres. The "cushion" is supported along its edges by oblong posts formed of two circular tubes connected by an HEA section. The posts are on rocker bearings, in other words jointed at the top and bottom to prevent motion being transmitted from the roof to the concrete podium block.

In order to optimise the number of spectator seats and the view, the upper seating levels, which are made of prefabricated concrete and form a ring around the stadium, are supported by metal consoles grafted onto the pillars.

The inner roof structure of the smaller ice rink is made of radiating triangulated beams that support the convex roof.

Villa S

The area is a plot on the side of a mountain covered almost entirely in trees, with great cedars and a superb view over the Grenoble Valley, the mountains of Belledonne and of the Vercors.

The client’s dream was for a Californian style house, but planning rules, with their architectural stranglehold, insisted on a regionalist style, in keeping with today’s frenetic insistence on regulations, reflected in moralising phrases such as " there have to be some standards". It took a year of discussions and meetings to convince the local council of the absurdity of imposing aesthetic constraints, and eventually to obtain a building permit.

The house extends along the contour lines following three successive strata which fan out into the landscape and the view over Grenoble to the southwest, creating a new topography designed to make the very steep land habitable. Each level has its own pattern specific to its content, its position in relation to the trees and to the view: the fact that the different floors are not superimposed releases extensive terraces and overhangs, enhancing the quality of the living space. There is something spectacular about the whole structure, a place for day-to-day living but also for entertaining.

The ground floor contains the technical spaces and garages, excavated into the slope, as well as the bedrooms. The layout of this level is designed to protect the cedars. The presence of tree trunks and vegetation at basement level gives the bedrooms an "earthy" feel, in contrast with the upper level, which is very airy and open to the landscape.

The story of a house is always the story of a position.
It is the story of the relationship between an architect and a client.
It is also the story of a place capable of founding a dream of living.

Primary school

In the countryside, where a certain tradition still subsists but where the signs of irreversible change are clearly apparent, the situation of architecture is paradoxical: the building of craft parks, shopping centres, etc. all over France, in uneasy coexistence with historic towns and villages, is fatalistically accepted as a necessary evil, but modern architecture in the country remains an exception, a genuine feat.

The plot chosen for the creation of the new school was relatively small, given the programme. These size constraints led us to devise a linear building situated on the boundary of the plot, in order to leave as much space as possible for a schoolyard with a southerly and westerly exposure.

Joining the building back to back in a corner of the plot made it impossible to create an opening on those sides, which is why a concrete angle wall was created. This wall has transparent glass loopholes to provide natural light, matched on the inside by specially designed lamps with the same elongated proportions. By contrast, the west wall is entirely glass, with windows covering the whole height of the facade on both the ground and first floor, so that the children have a wide view outside and over the surrounding landscape from their classrooms, whether sitting down or standing. The windows are made of sliding panels to provide good natural ventilation, while the electric exterior blinds protect the classrooms from the afternoon sun.

From the concrete square, the structure is generated by sliding two plates in relation to each other, with the whole construction being "held" by the roof. This layout is not only a sculptural trick to create volume effects, it is also a way of providing spaces that can be used in individual ways by children and teachers. These spaces include wide terraces extending from the classrooms and the library, which are directly linked to the courtyard by staircases that also act as exits. On the ground floor, a sheltered space under the overhang of the classrooms provides a play area, avoiding the need to build an extra element.

Sports court and training centre - Moirans

Laboratories and offices for the CNRS

The CNRS [national centre for scientific research] in Grenoble is emblematic of the local policies of the 1960s, which gave the city an international reputation as a scientific centre. The huge CNRS site looks like a military base, all grey colours and functionalist architecture. An unpromising context for a small project, designed to provide a contrast and introduce a dash of “sparkle" and humour into the ambient monotony.

In addition to the architectural context, the human situation was unusual: the scientists running the laboratory saw architects as vague, arty types, just about capable of choosing materials and colours.

An analysis of the way they work brought out a succession of paradoxes: the complex relations between individual and group work, between pure and applied research, between the need to allow no view into the building from outside for reasons of "defence security" and the need for natural lighting... between feeling and logic.

The existing prefabricated concrete buildings are laid out in a comb arrangement, with three-storey bars linked by a single-storey backbone more than 200 m long. The new project, which contains experiment rooms, laboratories and offices for the researchers, is next to the entrance, completing the system at one end. Its dimensions match those of the bars, but its section and materials are in contrast with the uniformity of the surrounding concrete construction.

The structure is a stainless-steel shell open to the sky on the north side to capture the natural light and illuminate the experiment room and laboratories, while preventing people seeing in. The offices are grouped into a black-capped linear bar structure, set into the stainless steel volume.

Inside, the passage linking the offices opens onto the experiment rooms, which are separated by the elliptical, transparent structure of the meeting hall. The choice of materials works on the contrast between the raw and the sophisticated, the industrial and the comfortable: steel frame and stanchions, aluminium-lined walls and ceiling, surfaced concrete floors, which contrast with the parquet and the beech partitions of the offices.

Information point

This project seeks to create a cultural link between two intersecting and superimposed mountain worlds: nature and industry. In its materials and layout, its architecture echoes elements of the natural site and the geography, but also of the industrial history of the Alps in its constructive processes and the technique used to embed it in the rock.

If the mountains are bearers of many dreams and expectations, they also crystallise a dichotomy: on one side, the aesthetics of the “integrated”, with the eternal reference to the traditional chalet model turned into a conventional and meaningless icon and, on the other hand, an aesthetics of efficiency, “necessary evil” for economical reasons, and which includes constructions such as the cable cars of the ski resorts, dams, hydroelectric works, etc.

As if there was no permeability between these two juxtaposed worlds.

The trunk road by which the project stands is bordered on one side by a cliff some 20 metres high, and on the other by the Chambon dam lake below. It is an exceptional site, but the plot is too restricted for a building, however small. It was thus decided to build it vertically, in equilibrium between the rock and the drop. This position offers the visitor a unique and protected viewing point over the dam and the mountains.

The building is anchored in the site through being embedded in the rock and through its material: in reference to the brown colour of certain parts of the rock, produced by the presence of iron oxide, the exterior shell is made of welded sheets of raw corten steel, strengthened on the interior by welded H frames. The volume, although unusual in shape, appears to be embedded into and form part of the mountain.

Nomad

The commission for Le Magasin (Grenoble CNAC) was an opportunity to create a gratuitous piece of architecture, free of all functional constraints, simply an experiment in volume and matter. Each of the 9 invited architects had an area of 15 square meters, a discontinuous and uncertain space, similar in many ways to a real urban situation.
Our creation is a "light box" made of copper scales, an object that is opaque from the outside (oxidised copper) and very bright on the inside (polished copper).

The space we were dealing with is a territory that is often disconnected and saturated with different logics. The world in which the architect operates consists of uncertainties, events that seem both ineluctable and uncontrollable. In this context, a territory with a blurred identity, the absence of common criteria as a basis for ideas encourages us to believe that architecture can nevertheless contribute a degree of humanity, of sensitivity and of mystery.

"Nomad" suggests travel, mobility. In our case, it signifies the autonomy of the object, free of the imperative of context and transposable to other places. We chose to design this construction as a real architectural project, using design tools and implementation methods specific to architecture.

Lionel Terray gymnasium

Whilst the Lionel Terray Gymnasium is now located at the heart of the new Echirolles town centre, at the time it was built its surroundings were without feature or identity, brutally meaningless: the neighbourhood consisted of 2 blocks of social housing, a partially completed high school, a few detached houses, some small industrial structures and fields waiting to be built over, all set against the distant vista of the mountains. The population that lives in this territory is young and fast-growing, and the gymnasium was intended for them.

The project is not so much an attempt to establish an object, but rather to assemble these scattered elements around itself by establishing visual and topographical continuities. Thus, rather than a closed box as sports halls often are, the gymnasium is an inflected structure that is open to the exterior, permeable, accessible and available. It rejects neither the surrounding architecture, inherited from the repetitive, standardised methodologies of the 1960s or the jerry-building of the 1980s, nor the landscape, which it makes no attempt to keep out.

The building is formed from the interlocking of a curved metal shell that covers the sports hall, and of a horizontal rectangular box made entirely of glass. The gymnasium is hollow, sunk 4 metres into the ground: the whole length of the opaque walls that necessarily surround this type of structure and of the seating, is buried, leaving three totally transparent sides at ground level, which make the flat area below into a stage where the sport takes place. The eye is attracted from one end of the building to the other. From the seats, the viewing angle has the effect of "erasing" the immediate environment and providing a frame for wide, panoramic horizontal views to the mountains and the sky.

The stretched arch roof consists of a metal "false layer" frame formed by 12 three-dimensional 28 m beams linked together to form a rectangular mesh latticework supported by two longitudinal metal beams with a span of 42 m. They function like a bridge resting on two concrete piles, on one side by the climbing wall, and on the other side on a combined transverse beam which links with the roof of the hall. The hall, an important constructional element in the articulation of the whole, is handled as a fluid space. All the small units – cloakrooms, reception desks, etc. – are grouped within a red box with a somewhat theatrical curved structure.

The construction and design of the building are not treated here as an expression in themselves, but as a means of holding forces in tension to enhance the quality of the space.