OMA has been selected from four competing international architectural practices to design the new École Centrale engineering school and its surrounding urban development in the research and innovation zone of Saclay, southwest of Paris. Spearheaded by Clément Blanchet, director of OMA projects in France, the winning “lab city” concept contrasts the corridor linearity of the typical laboratory. The design proposes a low level, glass-roofed superblock that contains an interior open plan grid, where various activities can interact and be overlooked simultaneously. Continue after the break to learn more.
The grid offers the “freedom to generate a new typology for learning, cultivating collaboration while maintaining the stable conditions of the engineering school’s primary pedagogical function”.
Blanchet commented: “The design integrates urbanism with the school, supplanting the homogeneous experience of the campus. It’s an attempt to define the actual esthetic of science.”
A diagonal main street slices through the grid, connecting with a future metro station for Paris at one end and the existing engineering school, Supelec, at the other. In the center of the project, a forum rises above the grid, offering a focal point of activity for the school. This platform accommodates a gym, administration center and classrooms for first year students, winding its way up through and above the field. This “stack” is conceived as a training machine offering a complementary condition to the small, intricate spaces in the horizontal field of “lab city.”
The project was developed in collaboration with Bollinger and Grohman, Alto, DHV, DAL, and D’Ici Là. OMA is currently working on several projects in France, including a masterplan for 50,000 housing units in Bordeaux, a new library in Caen, and a convention centre in Toulouse.