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.
Research Building & Ingemedia Institute in Toulon, France by ANMA
March 21st, 2018 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: ANMA
As part of the urban project created by ANMA for the Porte d’Italie district, the Maison de la Recherche (Research Centre) and Ingémédia project combines its educational vocation with an emblematic role in this new area of Toulon. The urban campus, a showcase for greater Toulon located at the entrance to the city, houses research and teaching teams and sits next door to the faculty of law.
While setting aside space for future developments, the project successfully manages to carve out a worthy place for the site within the urban fabric. It stands on a corner site that leads the eye to the Porte d’Italie and its ramparts in the distance, the image symbolizing the entrance to the city.
The new teaching hub houses two separate establishments within a total surface area of 11,000 m2: Maison de la Recherche Euro-Méditerranéenne and Institut Ingémédia, which specializes in information and communication sciences and is part of Toulon University.
Despite this density, the development had to avoid any negative impacts on local life, with the added complication of having to build on top of a three-level underground carpark inherited from a stalled project from the 1990s. The programme was divided between a two-floor base housing the largest elements (a 300-seat lecture hall, two raked halls with seating for 150, and Ingémédia’s post-production and filming areas) topped by three five-floor blocks above a landscaped terrace. The central block houses teaching rooms shared by both institutions, with Ingémédia occupying the eastern block and Maison de la Recherche at the western end. Splitting up the complex in this way avoids an overly strong visual impact and ensures that this ambitious and dense facility retains a human scale.
Split volumes and hanging gardens
The architectural project incorporates the university development into a framework that mirrors the scale of the city walls. On the base, the garden is planted with pine trees that provide a visual echo of the trees gracing the ramparts. Above the base, and offset from it, stand the three blocks: three identical white volumes, featuring large openings and topped with faceted roofs. The garden is a shared space that serves to unify the various buildings and foster informal encounters.
The lobby is fully accessible from street level and serves as access to all three blocks. It connects directly with the central block via a full-height stairwell up to garden level. The blocks are interlinked by walkways on the southern façades on each floor, which also act as sunscreens and areas for social interaction.
The base and block cores are made from concrete curtain walls, whose thermal inertia helps to ensure comfortable temperatures in the buildings. Load-bearing metal-framed façades mean that floors are unencumbered by beams or posts, offering highly flexible layouts. Façades are clad in white aluminium panels. Teaching rooms all feature enhanced acoustic insulation as the site lies in an area of high traffic density. The development’s visual identity is emphasised by floor-to-ceiling windows on the blocks’ north-facing façades.
Environmental responsibility was designed in from the outset, focusing on architectural quality, sustainability and low running costs. All three blocks benefit from natural ventilation using the draught from three large solar chimneys partially integrated into the roofs. The planted terraces also help to cool the air.