Lead Architect: Pierre Leleu
Contracting Authority: The city of Dunkerque
Text description provided by the architects. The Indoor Landscape. Ordered by the City of Dunkerque, the new media library moves in the Beaux-Arts Museum with its wide array of innovative cultural features including a café, a library, a cultural shop, an auditorium and an exhibit hall. On top of the extensive restructuring works done on the emblematic building, architect firm D’HOUNDT+BAJART and associates, along with the B!B, have conducted an ambitious architectural project rolling out a sensory landscape contrasting with consensual conceptions.
Awaken the Potential. The former museum originates from a great architectural ambition born under the Reconstruction era: simple yet monumental volumes, blank white marble walls, a pagoda style entrance making a direct reference to Oscar Niemeyer and the international style. Our first action was to reactivate the building’s significant potential. The annexes built over time around the main building were demolished to free up the main volume. The white marble regained its original radiance and discreet stripes even appeared alternating mat and glossy tones. Large openings were made on the walls to let natural daylight enter deep into the building.
On the Place du Théâtre, the new entrance, sheltered by a canopy, faces the Bateau Feu Theater. A panoramic bay opens up on the first floor flooding the exhibition hall with light. On the Place du Général de Gaulle, behind a vegetal screen of tall gramineae, the volume of the former entrance under the pagoda roof is closed by glass walls and hosts the music pavilion. Facing the garden, large bays offer a pleasant view and the café leads to an outdoor terrace. On the south face, the auditorium’s separate entrance adjoins the beautiful original stairway with its open work cylindrical staircase.
A Media Library and More. The new media library program comes from the population’s demand to create a library which does not look like a library. The idea was to break the codes, to make access easier and to make the library an everyday facility. To make the building accessible, visitors enter via the café: a casual environment that popularizes the concept of the library. From the moment they step into the building, visitors can enjoy the bright open space in a glance. Long sets of benches invite visitors to walk along the space. They have multiple purposes: sit down to read, have a break during a study session, draw, gaze at the park, wait for someone or just go upstairs.
The Tribute to the Original Building. Inherited from the post war era, the building’s original structure results from a radical and conquering push. It imposed strict requirements in terms of its reshaping which quality necessarily required craftsmanship and know how that are becoming scarce. Plaster ceilings with sensuous curves, wood shelves and bookcases, padded alcoves built in the walls and part of the auditorium.
As many specific solutions tailored on location to match architectural elements still present in the original building. For instance, the shelving work bears the outdoor staircase’s screen wall pattern. A way to mix the past and the present while remaining faithful to the spirit of the original building. Using craftsmanship and tailored solutions was also necessary to create a continuous space where the eyes can wander from floor to ceiling and follow the curves of the structure. Imagination meets no obstacle.