Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
PEX Toulouse in France by OMA
September 15th, 2011 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: OMA
The site is 150 acres of agricultural land at the edge of Toulouse, near a large international airport serving the region, and one of the largest and economically important Airbus factories in the city. The client – Société Publique Locale d’Améngement (SPLA) – has decided to relocate the existing Parc des Expositions (PEX) in Toulouse from the city centre to this new location in order to be “closer to the infrastructure and services consistent with economic development of the city”.
The new Parc des Expositions has a program requirement of 40,000 m2 of column-free indoor exhibition space, 41,000m2 of outdoor exhibition space, 15,000 m2 multifunction event hall, 15,000 m2 of logistics & amenities space, approximately 160,000 m2 for parking (6500 spaces), connection to a future tram extension in the east of the site, and the preservation of an historic farm. A Phase II expansion has an additional 45,000 m2 of indoor exhibition space and 37,500 m2 of parking.
In an area best characterized by sprawling and fragmented developments, multi-lane highways, and leftover spaces, we adopt a strategy that emphasizes compactness and preservation of open space.
An east-west axis is defined – creating an off-limit zone for developers – that is marked on the west by the new Aéroconstellation ZAC development, and on the east by the Garonne River. This new axis connects existing fragments of development and creates a linear band of parkland and public amenities including the PEX. Future developments in the adjacent areas are encouraged by virtue of the amenities of this strip.
We reject the sprawling organization typical of PEX in France – with parking at grade and exhibition halls as individual pavilions – and adopt a strategy that emphasizes compactness and density. Three parallel bars of program define the PEX as a rectangular block 316m wide, and 660m long that connects to and activates the public spaces to the east and west. Parking occupies a central position in the PEX as an elevated six story parking block with a central void along its length, allowing light and air to the spaces below. This element becomes the main circulation and organizational device, with exhibition halls to the south and outdoor exhibition and event halls to the north.
The lobby has two parts: at grade, it extends in an east-west direction for the length of the parking block, creating a “mixing zone” for exhibitions and visitors along its length. Near the centre, escalators bring visitors to an upper lobby that forms part of a north-south band of amenities connecting the three program bars. In the south, a business/conference centre faces out on the steps above the exhibition spaces; in the north the lobby connects to the Great hall upper level, with additional access via escalators to the ground floor. Visitors arriving to the PEX by car access the upper lobby and can enter either the Event Hall directly, or via escalators to the lower lobby and exhibition spaces. Visitors arriving by tram enter the lower lobby on the east side, with direct access to the farm, outdoor & indoor exhibition spaces, or the Event Hall.
The structure of the exhibition spaces and Event Hall forms a continuous three dimensional grid that extends to include the façade and roof, providing a generic “plugin” system for services and for exhibitors in the exhibition halls. Exhibitor and Truck access to the exhibition halls is at grade from either the north or south side of the exhibition halls, with the largest exhibition hall in the southwest having a full height door sliding the length of the façade for oversize objects.
The PEX is integrally connected to the open spaces to the west, with the Event Hall having a large bi-fold door opening toward outdoor seating that allows performances both indoor and outdoor. To the east, the outdoor exhibition spaces ramp over the highway toward the Phase II extension of the PEX. The farm – preserved in its current state and as part of the exhibition hall sequence – provides a restaurant and agricultural amenity. Visitors arriving to Toulouse along the highway enter the city via the PEX as a gateway and exhibition for the city.