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.
A mixed use building in Nancy, France by Anne DEMIANS
March 19th, 2015 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: Anne DEMIANS
Nancy, A Modern City for Over Three Centuries
Throughout the various periods of its urban development, Nancy’s vision always preceded its architectural commissions. The city suburbs were initially attributed to the original castle town, and in the eighteenth century, a message of unity was asserted at the annexation of Lorraine to the Kingdom of France. And this was an opportunity to highlight the ducal power around an exceptional architecture (classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site). At the beginning of the twentieth century, the architecture in Nancy successfully integrated the richness of the École de Nancy in its constructions, just as it was able to promote new ideas on building and construction in the footsteps of the architect and designer Jean Prouvé, who was also mayor of Nancy after the Liberation. This identity and legacy continues today with the reconquest of the riverbanks of the Meurthe: the city of the twenty-first century.
Nancy or the Requirements of an «Exceptional» Urban Partition
This project is unusual, not only because it is located five hundred metres away from the world famous Place Stanislas. It reflects an ambition that – had it not been integrated into its DNA from the outset – would have resulted in the creation of a banal building without meaning or history. The heaped impertinence of Quay Ouest reveals firstly the demands of the mayor of the time, André Rossinot, now President of the Greater Nancy Agglomeration. Secondly, the overlapping interests of a company, Pertuy Construction, eager to show its commitment to urban inclination, which includes the ethical desire to (re)combine architectural creativity with the sustainability of a modern building with low energy consumption.
In other words, Quai Ouest represents the synthesis of political energy with the commitment of a private developer.
Quai Ouest and the Meurthe Riverbanks
Quai Ouest is remarkable for its stainless steel outer shell and its 650 oblong windows like eyes watching the city. This 10,000 square meter building – on an island that has 28 000 – includes offices – including the Pertuy headquarters, a subsidiary of Bouygues Construction – a residential hotel and shops. Located on the outskirts of Nancy, this former industrial wasteland of the twentieth century and of the Canal is at the very confluence of Charles III’s city of Nancy and the new districts of the Meurthe riverbanks : 300 hectares contained within city-scale infrastructural boundaries in the process of urbanization that extend the reaches of the city by offering a new contemporary centrality.
Quai Ouest was previously the site of a gasworks. The site was sanitized, receiving an award by ADEME for its exemplary nature. Right on the edge of the banks of the Canal, it is at the intersection of the old city and the new city marked by Alexander Chemetoff’s Water Gardens and the alignment of modern buildings. It is also located at the culmination of the historic commercial centre of Nancy drawn by the St Jean and St Georges streets now crossed by the tramway.
Quay West dares to offer a contemporary articulation of diversity based on a delicate balance and coordinated architectural accordance and discordance.Like most of the principle buildings of old Nancy, the materials there are light in colour, they reflect and complement without literal imitation. The olumetrics respond and challenge, echoing the transversal altimetry.
Because of the disorganisation of the spaces along the Canal, and this on a significant scale regarding the existing neighbouring heritage, Quai Ouest aligns itself with Nancy’s historical past and reinforces the naval front contributing to recomposing an urban clarity. The volume of the building researching unity also resonates with those sectors that marked Nancy’s public spaces since the eighteenth century such as the Opera or the L’Hôtel de la Reine close to City Hall and the Place Stanislas.
Why a Single Volume?
As the fusion operates horizontally between functions, the scale sought for this street angle does not need to rise above the height of adjacent buildings of the surrounding neighbourhood. The single volume can remain comfortably within the maximum prospects and heights imposed. This controlled height facilitates the internal articulation of offices altimetry (held at R + 5) which includes the headquarters and residence of Pertuy Construction (maintained at R + 4) and functions with their optimum floor height (3.35m for offices and 2,74m for apartment hotels). This measure also creates a balance with residential buildings (in progress) and existing neighbouring offices.
Ultimately, the single volume rises or compresses itself to induce spatial dynamics in resonance with the site. The outer envelope itself accompanies this unique movement to reveal shop windows, office reception areas and hotel receptions. As for the Opera and the L’Hôtel de la Reine, the diversity melds into the same vibration as the full openings.
The Internal Courtyard
The transcription of the diversity is evident in the interior patio lit by the changing reflections of the sky shimmering in stainless steel. This shared and sheltered communal space is directly connected to the café / dining room on the ground floor.
The functional diversity that combines offices, a tourist residence and businesses allows for new exchanges. People working here can stay here, passers by can meet and hold meetings here. All will have access to the shops that have long been absent on this part of the historic trade route.
There are only 88 parking places available (half as many as the place’s potential). These are attributed to the hotel and offices, with the exception of Pertuy Construction. The corporation’s management deliberately wishes to revise the lifestyle trends and operations of its employees by encouraging them to use public transport and to share electric vehicles for their business travel within the urban community.
Quai Ouest’s Compact Design
Quai Ouest’s compact design allows for a simple volume without any instability / awkwardness. While respecting a flagstone to flagstone / tile-to-tile height of about 3.35m, technical and environmental choices allow a ceiling height of about 2.70 meters. The partitioning is free, on a 2,70m framework. Its compactness is a source of energy saving, material saving and maximizing the surfaces and spaces. Its pure form provides a flexible, standard and economic construction. The high windows allows daylight to penetrate into the heart of the building, the lower windows offer users an immediate visibility into the city.
The oval and curved shapes of the outer envelope, the facets and edges fluidly cover and extend the volume reaching the frames and floors, suggesting their function.
The material, stainless steel in its natural colour, oscillates between white and grey depending on the angle of vision and the light.
To create the 650 oval opening shapes, Cirmad developed specific tools, namely, resin window moulds obtained from automotive technology. These modules have to be positioned with great precision in order to receive the stainless steel cladding.
The Stainless Steel Envelope
Placed as close as possible to the structure, the stainless steel contributes to the unity of the structure and its inertia / momentum. The reduction of energy consumption is based on the performance of the envelope and on its technical installations. Energy performance is secondary to the reduction of heat loss in winter and optimization of solar energy especially in summer. The inertia of the building is partly due to the full and empty zones of the partition but also to the windows that influence the thermal effect and redirect daylight into the interior. The openings, arranged more or less regularly in a variety of situations, stretch out into curved shapes covering this envelope seamlessly.
Laurent Mourey: «The stainless steel envelope is exemplary, but creating it was not easy. Instead of seeking international expertise, Pertuy Construction consulted the metalworkers of Lorraine. This expertise exists there and is of the highest quality.
The family business, Le Bras Frères de Jarny Meurthe et Moselle, was finally chosen to manufacture this stainless steel cladding. It was the first time Pertuy Construction attacked a stainless steel facade of this complexity, but it is used to working on ‘impossible’ projects and ended up by buying up the company as a subcontractor «
The stainless steel envelope comes from the workshops of the Le Bras Company (1954), a French traditional family business known for its interventions on historical monuments (the Louvre, the Arena of Arles, the Metz Cathedral, etc), but also for its digital tools for cutting and custom work, and computers for drawing (CAD and DAO).
André Rossinot President of Grand Nancy:
«Quai Ouest acts as a visible beacon for the boulevard where it is situated and it distinguishes itself by its modern architectural partition. Anne Démians was aware that I could never accept an architecture that damaged the historical heritage of the city. The only constraint I specifically imposed concerned the respect of the quality of materials, in particular, those of the facade and windows.»
Anne Démians :
«I designed and completed a compact building that would be immediately read and understood. Its walls are completely covered with stainless steel, studded with oblong bays from which round windows look out like eyes. Above, I placed raised eyelids, a sign of alertness. The great perceived density is softened by the lightness of the stainless steel surface, bringing reflections of the changing sky onto the exposed surfaces and to the windows.»
ANNE DEMIANS, A COMMITTED PROJECT MANAGER / A PORTRAIT_
Ten years after creating her agency, Anne Démians ranks among the most respected architects of her generation among French developers and contracting authorities. Her handwriting / approach inspires city authorities because they see her as a highly committed professional whose economic pragmatism combined with the quality use of a building – and its possible reconversion – contribute to building the urban landscape of the twenty-first century.
As she states, «Cities and urban areas are radiating outwards and opening the way to a different future, depending on whether or not they bring a more or less inhibiting history and a character with them. The urban impulsion depends on it. «
Her credo is based on the need to anticipate urban developments before speculative amenities and urban sprawl contradict the territorial balance. This balance is being slowly but irremediably broken by the recent acceleration in critical situations.
In the interest of seeing architecture used as a general logic for each building, she designs energy efficient buildings, capable of adapting to other uses over time, legible leitmotifs in her architectural portfolio, free of pre-established rules.
She readily admits, «I turn the «ready to build « upside down by integrating local urban references, literary or stylistically, and I also avert the codes of expression dictated by established rules or strange reasoning.»
Having a head start on twenty-first century urban planning and implementing an adaptable town is not an incantatory speech on her behalf, but rather a way of rethinking the density and diversity in broader terms and in a creative way as her current projects bear witness.
Her commitment against (restrictive) certifications led her to participate in the work group created by the Ministry of Energy of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Spatial Planning, and to consider the applications and changes to be made to RT 2012.
In February 2015, she was named winner of the open competition for the rehabilitation and expansion of the ESPCI, the École Supérieure de physique et de chimie Industrielles. ESPCI Paris Tech is a major institution of higher education (a French «Grande École d’ingénieurs»), an internationally renowned research center, and a fertile ground of innovation for industry in the university of Montagne Sainte-Geneviève.
This project confirms her ability to transform the «School of the Nobel Prize» for over a century into an international campus. A campus adapted to the new practices of team research, with its multiplicity of locations of conferences and the flexibility of its laboratories.
Contact Anne DEMIANS