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.
PALOMA in Nantes, France by Tetrarc Architectes
January 27th, 2013 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: Tetrarc Architectes
At the eastern approach to Nîmes, on the Remoulins and Avignon road, between town and country, motorway and suburbs, aerodrome and hills, the new contemporary music venue is going to magnetize the citizens of Nîmes, Marseilles, Avignon, Montpellier and Arles, with its striking architecture, a concentration of manifest energy. First amongst the performances that take place here, it mesmerizes the passer-by with the dynamism of its dramatic forms and immerses the spectator in a sculptural and colourful universe spread out beneath its angular shell.
Crossing universal and local boundaries, Paloma’s architecture is also a sophisticated piece of engineering, with quarter tone practicalities for the delivery of the material to the performance, the live TV recording, the artist show case residence, ‘everything runs smoothly’ at all times.
It resembles a concentration of the South and its music: so alluring, deeply sensual, perfectly skilled and ‘exhilaratingly’ laid-back
Triangular tensions and erupting forces: a telluric power seems to inhabit Paloma, wanting to get out, stretching the walls, distending the structure, cracking the skin, tearing the membrane apart, swallowing the no man’s land of the square and taking over the world with its giant’s eye.
The interior softens the sensation without contradicting it: it is a magnificent celebration in vision as well as something of extreme intensity. The bullfighter is evoked, in his formalities, his protocols and his colours, the rituals and improvised killing and the triumphs. Paloma unmasks the analogy as much as it brings it to life: the walls of the big hall are clad in a thick protective coat evoking that of the Picador’s horse, the seats reconstruct the coloured pattern of the crowd in the arena, the banderilla pierce the sides of the patio, the yellow and purple of the muleta wash the interior spaces, the walls come to life with a series of gestures which illustrate the perfect geometry of the bullfighter’s movements.
And, just as in the arena, the action alternately crosses over dark and light spaces, extreme fear and sublime relief.
Galvanizing the suburbs
Just like the ‘feria’ in the historical district, this building electrifies the outskirts of the town. It is a vibrant landmark in the indeterminate nature of the suburban territory, between the flat vastness of the aerodrome beyond which the ants’ trail of the Languedoc motorway unwinds, together with the sprinkling of commercial businesses where the modern world retails its gates, swimming pools, cars, windows… the emptiness of an existing mythical national road reduced to a simple transit track between the centre and the outskirts, and a broken line of housing wavering between barricaded individuality and a gesture of collectivity. Paloma, with its power, its personality, its originality and its capacity to unite and bring together, gives this urban margin its life force back. With all the strength of its slender triangles it seems to want to deliver a resounding punch to the indeterminate nature of the outlying districts, to unite them, to bring them back to life and to town.
A touch of Franck Zappa
Such a star, Paloma is a concentration of mythical images, indispensable memories, a combination of perplexing, inspired ideas to create the feeling of total freedom and continuous improvisation disguising extreme discipline.
The architecture has its own references, from the structures overhanging the banks of the Meuse by Claude Parent and Paul Virilio to outline the Charleville-Mézières cultural centre at the heart of the 1960s, to the unending search for the lightness of the materials associated with engineers such as Jean Prouvé or Peter Rice. The entrances devised by Jean Nouvel, compressing the space by their low height in order to quickly release that space into the scale of the foyer, the stripes, scarifications, mouldings, engravings illustrating an ongoing work on the skin of the edifices. The origami used to form the stairs links two levels of a Nantes furniture design shop to the complex geometric forms developed by international architects at the beginning of the 21st century, not forgetting the jambs which support the balcony of the big hall, evoking those used by Gaudi in many structures that are examples of Catalan Art Nouveau.
It also makes use of a long relationship with abstract sculpture, matching the town sculpture projects of the artists in the 1960s and 1970s by the creation of a mega sculpture on an urban scale, to the tight lines and multiple facets which fit into each other to create an entrance, and straighten up to give way to glass windows illuminating a collective space, protecting a full crowd in an allegory of primitive shelter.
Constructed in the country of the Support-Surface creators, it flaunts the colours (the purple and yellow of a Viala observer of bullfighters) and the obsessive repetition of a simple design being systematically applied to a surface (diagonal stripes on the sides of the patio, the alternative white and blue paving stones of the floors and ceilings on the first floor). As with the furniture set out in some of the spaces its origin is in the sixties: it also draws on the visual effects used by Yaacov Agam to animate the vertical lines – which change depending upon where the observer is standing – the flamboyant style of the small hall which has been given the name of The Club: it combines simple squares in ten sparkling colours to identify some of the collective spaces: it gorges on the geometry of the abstract visual artists for the decor in the large recording studio and the sound recording cabin: it opens out the monochrome areas of the linking foyers like a young sculpture would do.
Sounds and images have a rich common past: the walls of the big hall have even more life in them when adorned with striking motifs which reverberate like the gears in ‘La Bête Humaine’ (a film by Jean Renoir), the mechanics of Chaplin’s Modern Times or the machines of Konrad Klapheck.
But all this only exists in relation to the music, and more particularly to the great liberating figures of the 1970s: the spirit of Franck Zappa, the initial link being with the green grasses suggested for the patio, creeping into the furnishings of the resident performers’ accommodation and their meeting spaces. And it is not unusual for the curve of a wall in the spaces reserved for the musicians to mock the curve of an electric guitar.
PALOMA’S ARCHITECTURE BY TETRARC: the essential items
AN ARCHITECTURE OF TENSIONS
Eloquent, it throws together the physical and symbolic tensions to produce ongoing poetry from tranquillity to expressionism:
Origami, the unending Japanese art of paper folding, finds itself translated into architecture:
AN ARCHITECTURE OF SKINS
Rounded or surging, Paloma’s brown shell appears, from a distance, to be totally homogenous. However, when observed from close quarters it reveals the diversity of its epidermis:
AN ARCHITECTURE OF FILTERS
Paloma is cultivating the bridging concept, making the best use of the dividing space between the ‘concrete boxes’ housing the various work premises (administration, studios…), the residential areas (apartments) and the areas used for the preparation of the performance (dressing rooms, technical areas) and the irregular forms of its shell:
THE ARCHITECTURE OF IMPATIENCE
Paloma manages the spectator’s mounting impatience by means of spatial devices:
But no matter where he goes and what his destination is, he knows that he will have the most intense experiences within this architectural space.
ARCHITECTURE OF MOVEMENT
The motion of sound and images added to all the convergent bustle of spectators, performers, materials and public transport or cars that the architecture gives structure to, channels, separates, directs or… hides, all of this energizes the building with a thousand crossed circuits.
Sounds and images harnessed on the stage are broadcast into the production room and into the main foyer, the corridors and the waiting areas, into the performers’ dressing rooms and far beyond the Paloma via the radio studio and the TV production vans.
ARCHITECTURE OF COLOURS
Monochrome or strong, vertical or flat, on the material or on the concrete, the omnipresent colour is part of Paloma’s personality:
ARCHITECTURE WITH A SOUTHERN SOUL
Light and shade, lively colours, Paloma is cultivating the local spirit and is taking its particular characteristics into account:
Paloma is revisiting the visual arts of the 1960s/1970s, the founding years of contemporary music, without omitting to demonstrate the contribution made by the performers from Nîmes to the contemporary art and visual culture of today’s youth:
A NÎMES BEAUTY
In Nîmes, Tetrarc is enabling Paloma to create the newest landmark in a history of modern and contemporary architecture which adds to the rich historical heritage of the city, marked, in particular, by:
A monumental space linking the public transport stops and the public car park with the hall, it forms the large white base that enhances the perception of Paloma’s soaring forms. This perspective and the images broadcast by the giant screen intensify the impatience felt by the future spectators prior to getting to the stage.
Its general profile, composed of large swept concrete, conducts the water runoff towards the retention ponds in order to avoid adding to the increase in the water level at times of heavy rain.
An allegory of expression of contemporary music, it projects its bulk onto space and multiplies its facets. It practises sincerity and the dual game: it draws a life force from its own substance, whilst relentlessly revealing its true size and the forms that it delivers to the eye. It is a multiplicity of states, sometimes exhibiting the power of a brown metal shell, sometimes the tears that reveal its inner self in order to better adopt the light clothing of the ETFE or to deliver a little of its internal personality whilst surrounded by a veil of pink stria. But all of this merely enables it to mask its extreme internal discipline without the performance getting out of control at any time.
THE ENTRANCE FOYER
A major psychological space: the transition space between everyday life and performance, a space of inevitable tension with the body search, it is the ultimate moment where the senses are gathered together before the rush to be in front of the stage. A reducing space accompanies this contraction of the body.
A performance within a performance, it energizes the look of a space which is enhanced by the contours that appear to have been carved by harnessing the successive strokes of a muleta and by the single colour yellow. Its scale has been designed to match the impatient and frenetic influx of people and their radiant and voluble return. The restaurant and shopping facilities where the performers’ talent can be enjoyed by purchasing associated products are located next to the stairs which have been designed to be scaled quickly, its two steps to the patio and its suspended screens on shining beams: it is more than an ordinary walkway: it is a meeting place, somewhere to get together, to talk over the concert, to share emotions and to arrange to meet for the next performance!
Seated at a table or standing near the stage, one can be close here to a performer’s or group’s first appearance on stage, the fruits of a residence. In order to get even closer one can enter from the side, cross a slope towards the stage, get a little height on one of the steps and the technical grid takes on the dimensions of the ceiling: whatever the intensity of the music, the status of the hall and the stage design here one is in the close intimacy of a little committee. And the red which covers the walls: isn’t it also the colour used in classical boudoirs?
THE BIG HALL
Two levels, telescopic terracing, an imposing stage, walls covered in giant decoration, sophisticated sound systems, a grid: everything is dedicated to the performance here! The entrance foyers painted the colour of blood red, the dramatic opposition of stage and hall, the no man’s land created between them by a protective barrier, the evocation of the arenas imprinted on the seating, the evocation of a gigantic crusher applied to the walls like a caparison to control the diffusion of sounds, everything here denotes that the performance is a challenge, a battle, a fight…
Everything here takes on another dimension: that of the South with its bright light compensated by the shade, its heat tempered by atomisers, its starry dome perfect for conversation. The pink streaks, some tiering, a concrete floor, and a long bar provide the third Paloma performance area. And it is not impossible for performers in residence to improvise some solos from the overhanging terrace!
Six rehearsal studios for resident groups, trainee musicians or local education students coming to practise with equipment available. They provide professional acoustic conditions and concentrate the energy within the black or red spaces, some of which are open to the outside.
They are completed by a seventh studio, much bigger, with sophisticated decor depending on the acoustic work and also the photoshoots or videos or TV. It is linked to an audiovisual recording studio, to produce or broadcast, record an album, edit a DVD, work on a teaser…
These have a dedicated entrance on the ground floor but being the point of departure for the Paloma grand foyer, the offices are spread out upstairs. The pink staircase which leads there separates the general activity of the spaces dedicated to management, planning, communication, operational management and maintenance… They are located around a central space with sofas provided for visitors, allowing the team members to meet on an informal and relaxed basis, unless they prefer to meet on the terrace which forms an extension to it. Cooled by a Canadian well system, they nevertheless can open all the windows, protected from the sun by the parts of the bare boned structure of the building.
THE OPEN SPACE
Directly connected to the offices, this huge room opening onto the square and extended by a balcony is a reception area for trainees and interns. It is fitted with mobile screens to be adapted for use.
THE PERFORMERS’ ACCOMMODATION
Forming a protected upstairs world the apartments march to the singular rhythm of the performers working within Paloma. Simple but furnished in a playful way, they have a huge terrace dedicated to collective entertainment and access to a restaurant shared with the dressing rooms.
THE DRESSING ROOMS
A world of frenetic activity before going on or relaxation after the performance, the dressing rooms all make up a clear, bright and very simple world given a colourful geometric counterpoint by the restaurant facilities. Their audiovisual equipment enables the performers to be in contact with the hall and the stage which are being prepared or which are in the midst of the first part. A stairway and a corridor give direct access to the three stages.
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Category: Cultural Center