Text description provided by the architects. The major new training centre of 5 000 m², dedicated to the transmission and promotion of French gastronomic expertise, is located in the outlying district of Meudon-la-Forêt on the edge of the forest.
The building is inspired by the presence of nature. The building mass is subdivided into 4 separate entities representing the four elements of earth, water, fire, and air, with a strong physical and metaphorical link to the act of eating, and which are reunited around a central space, the fifth element or ‘void’. The internal street, evoking with its lively ambiance the famous Parisian covered passage. At the ends of the street, forming a cross, full-height glazing admits a maximum amount of natural light, whilst bringing views of the natural landscape into the building.
The building sits upon a smooth, dark, solid concrete base, which anchors it firmly to the site, and expresses the notions of permanence and stability. Symbolically, it represents the theoretical foundations of learning, whilst the upper, most important part, symbolises practice and experience. This upper section clad in a sculpted metal skin is lighter in appearance, and more subtly articulated, the shiny metal echoing the stainless steel furnished kitchens found within. It is this contrast between form and material which gives the campus all its force and character.
These overhanging elevations, being more exposed to the processes of weathering, are given a sculpted metal form as if eroded by the natural forces of rain and wind, creating a wholly unique appearance and contemporary feel. From the outside, the architecture is characterised by the curving rhythms of brushed metal punctuated by sweeping glass facades.
The main façade is dominated by a large restaurant, forming the prow of the building, showcasing the expertise of Chef Alain Ducasse, and open to the public. The 215 m² restaurants with a seating capacity of 60, laid out and decorated by design agency Jouin Manku, have been imagined as a double-height, linear space, orientated towards the terrace.
The different training and activity areas comprising 9 laboratories for the culinary arts, a patisserie, a bakery, chocolate, and ice cream-making areas, an area for sensory analysis for the matching of food and wine and for the discovery of new flavours, 7 classrooms for academic courses, 1 knowledge centre, and co-working areas, 1 back office and administrative offices. In addition, there are areas open to the public such as a culinary boutique with a takeaway service, and a restaurant offering two different styles of dining: ‘gastronomic’ and ‘bistro’.
A large range of aromatic and fruit-bearing shrubs in the hedges, which might also satisfy the curiosity and appetite of students who can sample them throughout the seasons. The entrance forecourt is an outdoor terrace for the restaurant, a flavour garden composed of aromatic or edible plants for educational or recreational use, a cherry orchard provides a shady place to sit out during a break in the activities, the car parking area is also green and mostly hidden from the main entrance, the restaurant terrace, and the street.