planning of structural framework: Alpha BET
Client: Saint-L. Agglo
Architects: Randja - Farid Azib Architects
Location: 58 rue Lycette Darsonval, 50000 Saint-Lô, FR
At first glance, the technology centre on the outskirts of Saint-Lô in Normandy resembles a foreign body in the flat landscape. However, Farid Azib and his Paris architecture studio, Randja, were inspired entirely by the local surroundings, such as the mighty city walls of the nearby département capital. Another source of inspiration came from the many concrete structures erected in and around Saint-Lô after the bombings of the Second World War.
The new building, which stands on the edge of a technology park, unites coworking offices, event venues, exhibition spaces and an auditorium for 280 people. The code name “Fort”, with which Randja baptized the project, fits to the program: with the one exception of the lecture hall, all the centre’s functions face the large inner courtyard and two smaller atria. Outside, they are encompassed by imposing concrete walls, double-layered in their insulated areas. Set into these walls, rotating gabions, or wire cages filled with stones, open up the passageway to the inner courtyards.
The exposed concrete of the exterior and interior walls was, without exception, poured on site; Azib explicitly wanted to work without prefabricated elements. This makes it all the more astounding just how perfectly the dimensions of all the components of the building shell fit together. The width of the door leaves corresponds to the double breadth of the panels: in turn, this corresponds to the axial measurements of the post-and-beam façades. On the upper level, the latter are flush with the exterior wall; however, on the lower level they have been added to the concrete structure and are flush with the interior side.
Inside, the architects wanted to do without corridors when they could, which is why larger areas, when possible, are directly beside smaller, more intimate zones. On both sides of the entrance gate, two entrance halls open up to lead visitors on to open office areas and event rooms. The upper storey is accessed either via a large, outdoor stairway or two indoor staircases. Here, apart from the auditorium, the spatial structure has a smaller scale; it is devoted to individual offices and smaller meeting rooms.