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Musikzentrum Allende, Mons-en-Baroeul, Dominique Coulon & associés

Hidden dissonances: Allende music centre in Mons-en-Baroeul

How often has Schopenhauer's observation that architecture is frozen music been quoted in connection with newly-built concert halls?  On seeing Dominique Coulon's Allende Performance Hall and Rehearsal Studios near Lille, it is a saying that involuntarily comes to mind. If this building were a piece of music, it would be one in the modern twelve-tone scale, constantly thrusting its way forward from one change in harmony to the next, never coming to rest at a major or minor chord.

This can already be seen in the building's structure, which on its ground floor still conforms to the large, orthogonal post-war blocks that determine the downtown area of Mons-en-Baroeul. The upper floor, however, twists away from this right-angled grid – in the process providing the building a sightline to the town hall, as the architects explain.

However, this unconventional pivoting is naturally also a way of creating spatial tension. On its exterior, the building is comparatively sober in appearance. Some of the surfaces on its facades are rough; others are polished, with merely fine shards of mirror glass lending the concrete a gently sparkling effect when the sun shines.

Inside the building, two things in particular stand out: music – and coming and going, seeing and being seen on the stairways and galleries of the foyer. In contrast, the administrative offices are accorded only the minimum of space and even the catering area is little more than a concrete bar counter next to the main entrance.

The focal point of the building is a concert hall with a retractable tiered system providing seating for 500 or standing room for 1,000. An instrument storage area and three rehearsal rooms, of which one can be used for recording purposes, are located on the upper floor. Coulon, an avowed fan of complexity, expresses his dislike of banality and straight-forward solutions in the interior's tilted, partially perforated or mirrored black and white wall and ceiling surfaces. This impression is heightened still further in the foyer, where staircases and galleries intersect at various points, their black lacquered underfaces leaving a rather sombre mood in the areas below. It is not until the uppermost storey that this discordant impression is reversed with a white plasterboard ceiling in which fitted lights are to recall a starry sky.
Further information:

Fanny Lienart, Lukas Unbekandt, Thibaut Muller, Guillaume Wittmann, Diego Bastos-Romero
Construction monitoring:
Damien Surroca Architects
Planning of structural framework:
Batiserf Ingénierie
Electro- and TGA-planning:
BET Gilbert Jost
Enviornmental engineer:
Impact QE
Changement à vue
E3 Économie
Euro sound project
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