- Architect In Charge : Vincent Candau, Sylvain Marty, Vincent Prunonosa
- Contracting Authority : Haute Soule SIVU and Community of Soule-Xiberoa Villages
- Set Designers : Aldubarrak Bideo, Kakot’s, Ddiddue Etcheberry, Juana Etcheberry, Pette Etchevarria, Maritxu Etcheto
- Opc (Controlling Authority) : SARL Aguer, Pierre Aguer, Julien Goyheneix
- Cost : €540,000 before tax (architecture) + €150,000 before tax (staging)
- City : Tardets-Sorholus
- Country : France
Text description provided by the architects. The community of Soule Xiberoa villages and the Haute Soule tourist office decided to develop their tourism by transforming the former home of Dr Elisseche in Tardets (64) into a tourist centre for the Soule Valley. This town house boasts an extraordinary location as it stands right in the village square.
The programme identifies three spaces :
- The ground floor, mainly glass, information space connects right through the building, opening on to an outdoor terrace leading to a viewpoint looking over the river and the orchard below.
- Administrative premises on the first floor with offices and common areas for group work.
- An exhibition space on the top level, under the restored wooden framework. The two public entities (reception and staging) are visually linked
The Ground Floor is the visitor reception space. The house’s main constraint was a lack of natural light due to its depth on the plot. It is therefore an inter-connected space, freed-up as much as possible to make the most of the light from both the street side and the garden side. All servant spaces (for vents, pipes, etc.) were created in the narrowest section of the house. The custom-built furniture adapts to the tourist office’s needs. A large unit running along the entire length of the house is used as a display cabinet for catalogues with storage underneath. The unit then comes away from the wall to make the reception bench and close off a more private area for staff intended for the photocopier, control screens, etc. The memory of the house was maintained by leaving all the existing beams and joists on show. Lighting and ventilation systems are also on show and painted in the same colour as the walls.
The black quartz concrete floor contrasts with the light wood of the furniture (spruce) and the white of the house walls, that have been either lined or old-fashioned white washed, thereby revealing the pebbles used to make the wall. Like all houses slotted into the town centre, the house opens front to back with one façade overlooking the square and another façade looking into the garden. A large wooden terrace replaced a former cabinet-making workshop that was in too poor a condition to be preserved. It is used as a communal space with a wide range of uses (receptions, projections, etc.) enjoying a view over the orchard opposite and over the river flowing below. A true viewpoint, the terrace, made of local (acacia) wood, has turned grey over time and fits perfectly into its environment.
The openings into the square and the garden have not been changed, demonstrating how the house has evolved over time. The aluminium joinery was chosen to let as much light as possible into the house, and to highlight the landscape from the inside. The first floor can be accessed using the main staircase and the lift. It is reserved for the tourist office staff and comprises four spaces. An open-space where most of the employees work, the accounting office that shares a large window with the main work space, the director’s office and a common relaxation area. The open plan space has a built-in furniture unit and a direct view over the double height of the entrance hall. Staff can therefore see visitors coming and going.
Even there, «traces» of the old building are still visible: old fashioned white washed walls and joists demonstrate long-lasting know-how. The staircase is the project’s central feature as its role is to encourage tourists who have come to the office for information to go up and discover the staged space on the second floor. This is therefore the first thing you see when you enter the house. Except for the stairs, it is made entirely out of lacquered steel. On the top floor, a net hung from wall to wall can be accessed from the mythological space, as an extension of it, thereby creating a reading corner over the entrance hall. This recreational space is an extra attraction adding value to the triple height entrance.
The second floor houses the Basque mythological visitors centre called Herauskorritxe («red dust») Five modules explore specific themes using different media (painting, video, sculpture, entertainment, furniture, etc.) telling and demonstrating the myths whilst avoiding the temptation to set them in a single representation. Living, ephemeral and fragmented forms of the installation, made by the local Kakot’s collective, aim to express existing ties between mythical tales and the society that forged and told them. The staging uses the entire space, making the most of the high ceiling, as the loft floor was demolished in order to see the house’s complete frame.