Text description provided by the architects. Founded in 1921, the Concervatoire de Vanves today has 40 teachers for over 700 students. The new building, named Ode, replaces the cramped, dilapidated offices scattered around various places in the town, representing both a qualitative and quantitative leap. Acting as a music school and a performance theater, the facility is as much a teaching center as a disseminator of the musical and dramatic arts. The project is both a building and a public space with a piazza able to host open-air shows, located on a small square that provides a centrality that is mostly lacking in the area.
Located in a mixed urban fabric composed of constructions that each play their own partition, from houses to tall buildings, the new facility seeks appeasement and subtlety in the same way a musical composition organizes dissonant harmonies. The color white establishes calm and neutrality on volumes that nonetheless remain impressive, although some of it lies beneath the piazza. The visible part of this iceberg is a platonic cube that rises as an integral whole to its roof-terrace, a fifth wall covered with a metallic web that hides the technical equipment and evacuation air vents.
The coating is intended to be as smooth as possible with lacquered aluminum panels running from slab to slab, giving an inkling of the life inside. All exterior floors are faced with stone which extend to the building’s ground floor following a guiding line from the street towards a bay window opening onto the auditorium.
An orthogonal pattern controls the spaces with their highly varied dimensions and functions, from the dedicated rooms for percussion instruments, amplified music, piano, wind or vintage instruments to the dance and theatrical rooms, passing through the auditorium, a theater that is open to the public outside of teaching hours. As part of this orthogonal grid, the distribution scheme is repeated on all levels except for the ground floor. A generous hallway with stairs at either end provides access to the different rooms, each equipped according to its sound-proofing needs with airlocks or double doors. Teaching includes a vast sound spectrum from music played with vintage instruments to amplified music or gospel with either individual rooms or rehearsal rooms for a 70-musician symphonic orchestra. Besides the classrooms, the center also has a recording studio and a radio broadcast studio.
The auditorium has a proscenium stage and a seating capacity of 221; it can be configured for different kinds of shows (dance, plays, choirs, opera, concerts and contemporary music). There is a sound and light control room, an equipped grid above the stage, technical walkways over the hall and a retractable orchestra pit made of mobile panels in the shape of a concave shell to concentrate the sound for symphonies.
Acoustic constraints imposed several solutions, i.e. sound-proofing with the box in a box method and separation from the concrete structure. Sound-proofing applied to the ceilings and walls or smooth absorbent surfaces alternate with raised surfaces for rendering optimal sound. Double windows with a double-glazed frame combined with a single-glazed frame eliminate the risk of causing noise pollution to the vicinity. With the front windows permanently shut, double-stream ventilation ensures that the air remains fresh. All air vents are hidden, the lighting system built-in and the ventilation grids flush with the walls. The concept of spatial neutrality evacuates visual stimuli so as to place the emphasis on sound and instrumental lines with the plant-life of the patios as the only tangible reminder of the world outside of this microcosm’s walls. Removed from city noise, music takes pride of place.