Text description provided by the architects. SITE & PROGRAM
In 2010, the town of Saint Germain lès Arpajon wants to acquire new equipment comprising a media library and a school of music and dance. This cultural center will replace the current school of music & dance and the current public library which are located in a small and malfunctioning existing building.
The site chosen by the city is a long and narrow strap plot which fits in a larger scale between Chanteloup park overlooking the West and Orge Valley in low-cons in the East. The plot is steep and looks down to the valley. It’s framed by Rolland Garros High School on a side and by a cemetery on the other side.
The Project main access is located by Leuville road, at the top of the site. A new path, created along the school to connect the main road to the path Chemin du Roy, distributes an eventual project of nursery which could take place at the bottom of the site.
The project is playing with the natural slope of the site (almost 3 different levels) by moving towards, like a straight line drawn in the landscape. Set back from the cemetery by a landscaped strip and from the school by the new road, the public building is holding onto the site via two compelling levels of the project: a mineral square on the top (Leuville Road), a vegetal square on the lower level (at the heart of the plot). Both squares are connected through the building by a public passage. The project stands between a deliberately low high building towards the landscape and strong urban landmark. In order to respect the cemetery, the new cultural is taking the best of the untypical topography to remain discreet.
ORGANISATION IN PLANS
The program is organized as a continuous loop, joining the top square to the bottom square. The structural programmatic entities of the cultural center are the library, the school of music & dance and a centralized lobby (including animation spaces, auditorium, expectations and exhibition spaces) from where the whole building and the administration are vertically distributed.
At the Leuville Road, the project is approaching the ground to emerge from it down below the slope. The equipment clearly appears from the road Leuville, thus affirming this main access with a mineral and generous square. The public entrance of the cultural center opens between the two branches of the equipment as a welcoming hand to guide you through the building.
The media library and the lobby are located at higher level. This is the heart of the project, this is where visitors find information. The library is organized as a L-plan on a large open reading spaces structured by colored furniture. The library is widely opened towards the Orge Valley. On the lower level, the music & dance school, administrative offices, and lecture studios are located on the north side, while the two main rooms offers generous views to enjoy the landscape of the valley. Technical premises and bicycles parking are provided at the lower public square.
At the lower square, the building is dug in to leave the upper part of the building in levitation. The library emerges and raise thank to an impressive pre-stressed concrete beam which is set against a massive buried volume to balance the composition.
The west and east facades are offered one to the city and the other one at the valley Orge. The West facade is a signal for the higher square. The East facade frames the landscape and dominates the lower square searching of the horizon. By a measured set of transparency, the new public building is a showcase about the city and the landscape allowing us firstly to see from outside its cultural activities and mostly to frame the landscape of the valley.
The design of the wall- panels, based on a meticulous framework gradually alternating with different shaded of glazed- panels and printed-panels, gives rhythm to the façade of the public building. Solid wall-panels are made of extruded aluminum measured elements to create a random feeling and hide all mechanical fixations. The roof is vegetated to increase significantly the inertia of the building and to preserve a pleasant views over the surrounding buildings.
A «break» as a rift offers an outdoor pedestrian way between a mineral square top and an landscaped courtyard at bottom. This way through the building provides fire exit for the buried levels and allows visual framing games by multiplying the crossed points of view between the different levels and programs the building. This empty space structures the full. It allows both wings of the cultural center to benefit from a generous natural light. So both, indoor and outdoor pathway intersected and intertwined on three levels creating a dynamic journey through the building towards a cantilevered volume.
A controlled and secure internal street is extended by an inner courtyard (underneath the dance halls cantilevered). This is an additional space (included in the program), covered, in between exterior and interior, allowing both to hold story-telling & reading zone of the library and outdoor music lessons of the music school. This new building is a generator for a plot with great potential offering, the city of Saint- Germain-Les-Arpajon the cultural and social urban center it deserves.
The urban composition, a stretch line in the landscape, complemented by an clear architectural style, allows the public building to become an attraction in the neighborhood but also a link between the Leuville road and the rive l’Orge. The project was designed according to a comprehensive though about location, shape, cost of operation and materials, aiming to promote exchange, conviviality and allow public meeting.