Text description provided by the architects. The pierresvives building for the department de l’Herault is the unification of three institutions - the archive, the library and the sports department - within a single envelope. These various parts combine to create a building with a strong single identity when viewed at a distance, but as one moves closer, the division into three parts becomes apparent. The building has been developed using functional and economic logic: the resultant design reminiscent of a large tree-trunk that has been laid horizontally. The archive is located at the solid base of the trunk, followed by the slightly more porous library with the sports department and its well-lit offices on far end where the trunk bifurcates and becomes much lighter. ‘Branches’ project vertically off the main trunk to articulate points of access to the various institutions.
This longitudinal division of serviced and servicing spaces is maintained along the full length of pierresvives. The front of the building contains all the public functions of each institution, linked by a linear lobby with an exhibition space in the centre. Above this connective ground level, the three institutions remain strictly separated, each with its own core for internal vertical circulation.
On arrival at the main entrance, visitors are directed from the lobby to the educational spaces of the archives on ground level; or via lifts and escalator to the main public artery on level one. This artery is articulated all along the facades as a recessed glass strip, with the reading rooms of the archive and library are immediately accessible. Central in this artery and therefore located at the heart of the building, are the main public facilities shared between the three institutions: the auditorium and meeting rooms. These important public spaces form the primary central volume of the grand cantilevering canopy above the entrance.