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.
Le Temps Machine in Joue-Les-tours, France by Moussafir Architects
March 8th, 2013 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: Moussafir Architects
A Southwest suburb of the city of Tours, Joué-le-Tours was upgraded to the status of a town in the 1950s. It was at this point that, together with the town hall and social housing, Joué-le-Tours got its MJC (the Youth and Culture Centre). An initiative of the country’s first Minister of Cultural Affairs, Gaullist and intellectual André Malraux, the MJCs were an important institution in France.
A few years ago it became evident that the building no longer met contemporary standards and requirements. The competition – won by Moussafir Architects – called for the renovation and expansion of the existing venue. The new facility had to include three principal components: a concert space for a standing audience of 650 (the Grand Hall); a 150-seat cabaret-style space for smaller performances (the Club), and a resource centre.
The task to restructure a bulky, opaque, inward-looking building that failed to interact with the surrounding public space required careful consideration. The architects took it as an opportunity to pay homage to the old MJC. They maintained the patio and some significant fragments of the existing structure, including that of the concert hall – an identity-shaping element of the original building. Highly prominent on the facade, this prow-like form once contained the audience seating; today it covers the smaller space of the Club, while the Grand Hall is placed behind it, and rehearsal rooms are tucked below the Grand Hall.
URBAN INTEGRATION: A MUSIC VENUE OPEN TOWARDS THE STREET
“Performance halls are often closed, blind volumes, so every time we design a concert venue, we try to open it towards the surrounding context,” says Jacques Moussafir. The Time Machine is not an exception: having moved the larger hall to the back of the building, the architects placed the cabaret/bar in front of the street, right behind the fully glazed frontage. Later on, changes to the initial program demanded boosting the Club’s capacity from 85 to 105 decibels, which meant stronger acoustic insulation and the need to close it off from the adjacent residential area. However, two thirds of the street-level facade remain transparent.
VOLUMES: TRANSPARENT / OPAQUE, LIGHTWEIGHT / POWERFUL
To improve contextual integration, the project is divided into two distinctive parts that function in different registers. The resolutely horizontal, 2,5-metres high concrete and glass base houses a fluid and open interior space; deep projecting eaves offer shade and protection and create a sense of hospitality. By contrast, the roof reveals three opaque, powerfully articulated volumes: the main programs – two performance spaces and the resource centre – are represented by three-dimensional silhouettes that seem to burst through their flat pedestal.
This extravagance responds to yet another objective pursued by the architects: to emphasize the festive dimension of the facility by making a unique architectural statement. “The contradictory image we were aiming at is one of a unique yet familiar object that is challenging and yet invites appropriation: a sculptural design that refers to nothing that already exists, but which users can easily engage with, both in functional and symbolic terms,” comments the architect.
MATERIALS AND FINISHES: INVERTING THE CONVENTIONAL LOGIC
True to his taste for paradox, in the Time Machine Jacques Moussafir inverts conventional exterior/interior characteristics. The building appears hard on the inside and soft on the outside. The materials chosen for the interior are raw concrete, glass, and stainless steel. The red-and-black color scheme of the performance halls is juxtaposed to the total whiteness of the sculptural roof, entirely covered with an FPO membrane.
To enhance the “soft feel,” the architects have fixed the membrane in a manner that resembles buttoned upholstery – which proved the best way to deal with the material that was neither supple nor rigid enough for simply stretching it over a three-dimensional surface. The result is a complex but unified volumetry of the roof where the same material is used on both horizontal and vertical surfaces. From a practical point of view, the use of concrete for the inner spaces helps reduce the need for artificial cooling – the key necessity for a concert hall – due to the thermal inertia of 35 cm-thick concrete walls.
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