2020 DELIVERY DATE
FORT, THE NEW SAINT-LÔ TECHNOLOGY PARK
The whole place is shaped by historical, societal, political or philosophical movements. I reckon these active forces do still interact with the programming. Among the large Normand cities that were bombarded in the summer of 1944, Saint-Lô was the one that suffered the most radical destruction. The city was pulverised, 95% ruined, with nearly five hundred victims. How can we not take this overwhelming event into consideration, as it is still so close to us?
In 2015, I was selected in a competition to design the “Agglo 21” Technopole, commissioned by the Saint-Lô agglomeration. The aim was to create in the south-east of the town a useful place to serve companies, project leaders, training and employment bodies, and to offer differentiated spaces for teleworking, coworking, meetings and videoconferences. An innovation laboratory with a creative resource room, the site also had to be capable of organising events – to do this, it had to allow for an amphitheatre, a showroom, a reception area, etc. In its general configuration, this technology park, next to a training centre, had to bring about creativity with the exemplarity of its structural design and with a novel technical implementation.
« DURING MY FIRST VISIT, I WAS MOVED BY THE BEAUTY OF THE ROCK, WHICH IS EVERYWHERE: THE ROCK THAT OUTCROPS ON THE COTENTIN HILLS, THE ROCK THAT I FOUND ON THE SITE OF THE FUTURE TECHNOLOGY PARK, THE 400M-LONG GRIMALDI AND 12M-HIGH WALL IN THE TORIGNY-SUR-VIRE NEIGHBOURING VILLAGE, AND ABOVE ALL, THE OLD SAINT-LÔ CASTLE FORTRESS. THE LATTER IS ONE OF THE RARE BUILDINGS THAT SURVIVED THE WAR, AND IT HAS A STRIKING POWER, DOMINATING THE LANDSCAPE ON THE VIRE RIVER BANKS. »
During my first visit, I was moved by the beauty of the rock, which is everywhere: the rock that outcrops on the Cotentin hills, the rock that I found on the site of the future technology park, the 400m-long Grimaldi and 12m-high wall in the Torigny-sur-Vire neighbouring village, and above all, the old Saint-Lô castle fortress. The latter is one of the rare buildings that survived the war, and it has a striking power, dominating the landscape on the Vire river banks. These images of rock, either raw or cut and built, became superimposed on those of a ruined town, reduced to a pile of stones and rubble. In the aftermath of WWII, the inhabitants, despite the trauma, protested against the idea of moving their city altogether.
« THE NEW SAINT-LÔ TECHNOLOGY PARK, WITH ITS MONUMENTAL WHILST FRUGAL APPEARANCE, REVEALS AN UNDENIABLE SENSITIVITY THAT MAKES IT UNIQUE. »
They opted for a reconstruction in situ, around the fortress and its ramparts which had escaped the shelling barrage. The pile of stones from the destroyed houses became the raw material for this return to life, for this reconstruction.
The architecture proposed here has, in its own way, been inspired by this history to initiate a new tomorrow.
THE ROCK, THE WALL: THE CONCRETE
My intuitions became clear in the early stages of the design: why not take up these elementary fragments that are at the heart of the region’s architectural narrative, and use this rock pulverised into rubble, which the builders of Saint-Lô once collected, sorted and assembled to build new homes?
Extracted in aggregate form from a quarry located 20 kilometres from our site, the rock is used to make the concrete for the shell and doors. The concretes are all visible, either rough or smooth, often in their rudimentary state, leaving visible rough patches. Casting on site quickly became the preferred method. In order to achieve this specific, desired and assumed mineral appearance for the concrete structure and so as to harmonise the walls and the floors, a technically very complex construction process was used: a double concrete wall with insulation in between. Thus, as a symbol of strength and durability, concrete allows for a robust interiority, apt fop all the recommended activities. The high wall is its form, with thick ramparts turning the building into a FORT, dedicated to economic development, echoing the city’s identity. It is presented in the form of a parallelepipedon.
The volumes are large, all the spaces have a free height of 4 metres, thanks to the absence of suspended ceilings. The only sound absorbing material used is grey fibra, which is applied to the central parts of the ceilings to provide good absorption. All of the operating elements were laid out and integrated into the concrete during the casting phase. This fortress high wall is completed by galvanised steel «boxes» filled with local stones commonly known as gabions. They are hinged and act as fences for the patios: they protect the spaces when closed, they distribute the activities when open.
Particular care has been taken with the joinery, which is positioned on the outside of the ground floor, and it is the opposite for the upper floor. The glazing is held in place by clamshells, suspended and supported by the high floor of the amphitheatre.
«THE FUNCTIONS ARE LEANING AGAINST EACH OTHER, SEAMLESSLY, IN THE HEART OF AN ENCLOSURE THAT FACILITATES THE MOVEMENT OF USERS.»
A FORT DEDICATED TO ENTREPRENEURIAL CREATIVITY
We therefore created a «rampart» facility by enclosing all the activities within a thick envelope. An assertive, powerful volume, solidly rooted into the ground. An architecture with simple forms, emulating the elementary model of a fortress. Only the 280-seat amphitheatre, like a crown or a modern keep (21×21 metres, and 14 metres high) is openly visible from the road. It has the function of the building, in a hieratic and almost enigmatic way. The entrance forecourt extends inside the enclosure into a «staircase-belvedere square», apportioning the events centre on the left, and the activity centre on the right, with the amphitheatre (in addition to the main access from the events centre) and the video-conference rooms overlooking the highway.
The layout of the premises is juxtaposed, without corridors, thus always favouring natural light, which bathes the interiors thanks to the many large windows opening onto the patios. This means that people can look through the whole building from one side to the other, whereas from the outside it looks massive and closed. Thus, the partitioning can easily vary in order to adapt. The aim of the internal spatial organisation is to encourage dialogue between users when they do meet.
And to densify, link and overlap practices by increasing the number of transition spaces. These interstices, of different sizes and natures, allot and articulate the two poles, the events one and the collaborative workspaces one. Still enclosed by the perimeter wall, they are present in three different places in the form of courtyards or patios. These are places for recreational work and relaxation, with direct access from the interior spaces. Quite like the monumental «staircase-belvedere square» which serves as an open-air hemicycle that is an extension of the indoor amphitheatre. The same goes for the two ornamental patios that allow for relaxation and exchange.
«THIS IS A NEW FORMULA: A DOUBLE CONCRETE WALL WITH INSULATION IN BETWEEN.»
In its own way, this «technopole-city» takes its organisation from the medieval city: the functions lean against each other, without interruption or separation, in the heart of an enclosure that facilitates the users’ movement. This arrangement creates in-betweens areas that are conducive to informal relationships, discussions and visual contact, and in short, do contribute to creativity and to entrepreneurial dynamics…
SAINT-LÔ CONURBATION, MANCHE DÉPARTEMENT NORMANDY REGION, FRENCH STATE, EC
Pôle Agglo 21
Isabelle Pinsolle, Yvanie Wilhem, Anouk Vialard
GAUTRAND & associés
ACOUSTIC & SCENOGRAPHY
VPEAS, CLÉMENT CHEVALIER
ELXIR, Philippe Bompas
2B CONCEPT consulting
DIGITAL TRADING PLATFORM
FARIDAZIB + DGC Communication
STRUCTURAL WORK, CONCRETE FACADE, SCREEDS
EXTERNAL JOINERY, OCCULTATION
METAL WORK, LOCKSMITHING
PARTITIONS, FALSE CEILINGS
Lafosse Menuiseries Françoise
CMC Charles Martin Carrelage
PAINTINGS, CARPETS, FABRICS
ELECTRICITY (HEAVY & LIGHT CURRENT)
HEATING, VENTILATION, PLUMBING
Atelier Lesouef Publicité, MDG Création Métal
MULTI-TECHNOLOGY & MULTI-SERVICE MAINTENANCE
Sage, Engie Cofely, Engie GRDF, Veolia