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.
The Flow / CECU – Euroregional Center of Urban Cultures in Lille, France by atelier d’architecture King Kong
April 21st, 2017 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: atelier d’architecture King Kong
In its cultural development policy framework and renovation of the Moulins neighbourhood, the City of Lille started in 2009 the building of a new cultural equipement that could enable the development of Moulins’s existing Maison Folie, that lacked specific spaces to carry out all of its projects, and to create a Euroregional Center of Urban Cultures (The Flow – House of Hip-Hop), a structure made necessary by the importance of activities linked to that practice that had until then no place to unfold. The importance of this project justified its integration in a site close to the town center. The will to unite these two equipments in a same place presented numerous advantages for both structures, including the possibility to ensure de facto synergy, their objectives being common. The Maison Folie, that had already conquered its own public in five years of existence, was forced to refuse or postpone numerous projects (dance, theatre, plastic and visual arts) due to lack of space.
The Maisons Folie are a set of cultural sites based on the Lille metropolis, in the Nord, Pas-de-Calais, and Belgium. They are the legacy of Lille 2004, years of events during which Lille (with its urban area) was the european capital of culture. They are used as exhibition spaces, concert halls, organize workshops for children and adults etc. They constitute an important network in the cultural life of the Nord.
The Maison Folie de Moulins, a former café, contains a certain number of parts articulated around two courtyards. A first partial rehabilitation had taken place before our intervention. We were charged to accomplish complementary works, end exhibition and diverse activity rooms, parallely to the construction of a building created ex nihilo, on the front of the lot. On the other hand, by choosing to implant this new building set back from Fontenoy street, we created an esplanade meant to be used by inhabitants and on which concerts and other artistic events can take place.
The Flow has thus a double ambition to frame and promote artistic practices from the street. It is about created a specific place, a “common house”, that gathers several disciplines, while evoking the urban world in which these practices were born. Hip-hop related places are often recycled spaces, and contrary to scenes of actual music (SMAC), there is no typology of project representative of such a program.
The principle we adopted consisted in thinking globally about the requirements of the program in connection with the existing and the future of the place. We thus worked by strips, the buildings on the west on the Arras street side being demolished, the space thus created receiving the service functions of the equipement. From the north-east towards the south on the Dupetit-Thouars street side, we conducted the requested rehabilitation of the Maison Folie of Moulins, conserving most of the brick facades, behind which footbridges and stairs show through slightly, to end at a wall of Corten steel assuring by its transparence a view on the courtyard and also the junction with the new building. Marked by a “New York style” atmosphere, the courtyard of the house of Hip-Hop is both a horizontal and vertical link and the setting for outdoor activities. It thus offers the possibility to host public on its many access gateways and decks. The beams punctuating the structure have an important section: they are meant to receive scenographic equipements and to support the elements used for exhibitions. It is the whole story of the neighbourhood that we tried to perpetuate, through this industrial design which, on the other hand, suits naturally hip-hop and urban cultures.
Interspaces and diverse existing accesses were preserved, allowing access to part or all according to needs by walking paths from east or west, the main entrance being located south. Depending on wether one space or the other is open to public, it is possible to close if needed the access to other functions of the building. Users and/or spectators thus enter the building via specific entrances. When the space is in “free appropriation” mode, entrance in the building is chosen according to provenance.
The new building’s mode of operation, developing on four levels including one basement floor, is very simple. To each floor corresponds a precise function of the program. On the ground floor, functions of reception and conviviality are in direct contact with the esplanade. On the basement floor are the musical studios; on the second floor, the administration; on the third floor, dance; and on the fourth floor the graff workshop with its outdoors extension. Each floor can thus work in full autonomy according to the needs of users.
The common broadcast room is intentionally set back from the facades, in the heart of the parcel. Visible through the reception of the house of Hip-Hop or the ground floor of the building Bulle of the Maison Folie de Moulins, it seems like a second courtyard.
The structure of the building we conceived is made of reinforced concrete and based on a system of columns-beams. Only the roof of the broadcast room is supported by a steel frame of the lattice beam type. Some specific works are made in load-bearing masonry. The exterior of the broadcast room is made of 30cm thick concrete panel on which removable inside dubblings are fixed, made of horizontal steel platforms and plasterboards fixed on an independent structure. The facades of the house of Hip-Hop are made with type VEC aluminium profiles and have thermo-acoustic triple glazing windows with concealed grid and stores (product developed by Saint-Gobain).
The broadcast room, almost cube-shaped, is surrounded by two levels of gateways, while the grill is extended on the whole surface: the work of technicians is greatly facilitated (we even set up a staircase from the level 1 to level 2, it is raised during shows). The capacity varies from 225 seats with the bleachers open to 600 to 700 of standing capacity without bleachers. This space and these proportions deliberately encourage exchanges between artists and musicians on stage and their audience: shows can be frontal, bi-frontal or use the “ring” effect thanks to peripheral balconies. The acoustic correction is provided by a multitude of cushions of varied dimensions, guaranteeing absorbtion, reverberation and diffraction of the sound.
Preserving for a big part the patrimonial identity of the block with its brick facades typical of the cities of the Nord, the equipement borrows also to industrial design, very present in Lille and the whole region, its vocabulary, in resonance to urban practices to which it offers an original place, with no French equivalent. With a blend of respect for yesterday and adoption of state-of-the-art technology, the Euroregional Center of Urban Cultures is ready to welcome new uses, its flexibility of use being optimal. Its transparencies with the public space encourage the appropriation by the artists and the public of spaces we wished extremely convivial.
An innovating media-facade
It should be noted that the building is equiped with the first digital glass facade that ever appeared to that scale. LEDs are in glass slides and via invisible electrical supply are linked to a computer piloted by users (which will enable to invite artists who are specialists of this type of performance to animate this facade at will). LEDs incorporated in the glass evoke very convincingly the activities of the house of Hip-Hop, making its skin its sign. Not freezing the decor of the facades – that are deliberately transparent to notify the porosity maintained between the street and the arts that spring from it, LEDs seem in that sense likely to add significant semantic value to the CECU.
The walls will regularly change in appearance in resonance with the mobility proper to the activities unfolding in the Center. Graffers and dancers will then be welcomed in a place not only in direct contact with the space around them, but signifying its function by its own construction methods, and its artistic message and constant evolution. The concept of “media-facade” that is starting to meet great success throughout the world is here developed by an original process also to reinforce interactions between the building and the urban space that the device enriches by externalizing certain informations, transformed in moving and poetic visions.
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