Text description provided by the architects. Located at the center of the Saint-Jean district, on the high plains of Beauvais, the "House for Solidarity" is located on the former Agel military base. Erected after the 1870 war, this 12 hectares former military site has been a wasteland since 1993, pending an ambitious urban project. The renewal of the district, that is now well underway, aims at creating urban continuity, opening up the area to the city, reducing social problems with new equipments, a wider range of dwellings and local services.
Between new buildings and existing housing, the House for solidarity participates, by its presence and its elegant silhouette, in the pacification of the area. It also gives a finality to street where it meets the park. Neither monumental, nor impressive, the project distinguishes itself from nearby housing by the subtle movement of its facades, its single building materials and its planted roof. The project unfolds horizontally without rising. It is dressed in bricks, a material historically present in Beauvais and more widely in the North of France.
A skillful movement of cladding and overlapping bricks reveals on the facades a weaving pattern of diamonds, an allusion to the tapestry workshop tradition of Beauvais and to a secular knowledge. Shadows and light reveal the pattern, expressing the architectural richness of the project, singular and precise without being ostentatious. The perception of movement also arises from the inflection of the first floor walls, diverging from the center, above the entrance, a backward movement which softens the monumentality of the whole. The free positioning of the walls enhances the singularity of the project and its attention to the human element, to its fragility.
The House for solidarity comprises four entities on two levels. The ground floor welcomes the public whereas the social workers offices are located on the first floor. The public enter at the center of the building to be welcomed by a wide reception counter protected by a glazed screen for privacy. In the background, seen from the entrance, a garden-patio creates the conditions of a gentle welcome.
The program on the ground floor operates in unison with the gardens outside. The meeting room and the mother and child care section for instance, face the garden-patio, giving intimacy to both mothers and children. The main street facade of the ground floor extends around the second garden dedicated to child protection and family helping. This garden is at the heart of the district and is also a protected place.
Staff entrance is located on the patio side. From this point a parallel private corridor, gives access to the various services independently from the public one: social workers can go either to the premises receiving the public on ground floor or to their private offices on the first floor. This flow "behind the scenes" guarantees the quality of reception while offering safety and comfort for the staff.
The House for solidarity is a key project in this fast changing district, a place of appeasement in a rough area. The use of brick plays a part in this achievement. A tribute to the diversity of facades in Beauvais, its use expresses a sensitive and welcomed return of this material in today’s architecture. Using the cavity wall insulation technique, every single brick of this peculiar patterned façade has been designed individually. We counted about 38 000 bricks.
The pattern is created by overlapping, overhanging and rotating each brick in 7 different manners. It was designed using a complete 3D model (BIM) with homemade parametric tools. The use of such tools allowed to develop simultaneously and almost independently the architectural project and the weaving pattern. It allowed a versatile and adaptable design, facilitating communication with all construction companies and the mounting of the bricks on the construction site.