Interlocking volumes: Poissy Galore Museum and viewing tower
Client: Communauté d’Agglomération Deux Rives de Seine
Architects: AWP (Paris) + HHF Architekten (Basel)
Location: Avenue du Dr Marceltouboul, 78955 Carrières-sous-Poissy, Paris (FR)
The ensemble, the outcome of a competition held in 2011, presently comprises a museum for a large collection of living and conserved insects, and a viewing tower. The Musée des Insectes, which consists of five interlocking volumes with classical pitched roofs, will likely act as the entrance to the site. Both the individual buildings and their interiors awaken associations with the species placed on show.
The intersecting of the individual buildings yields differing spatial geometries that make a diffuse impression in some cases. The contiguous load-bearing system of flexurally stiff timber frames indirectly lends continuity to the individual volumes, and here and there forms "unexpected groupings of columns" that recall "a forest, or the legs of an insect", as the architects aptly point out. The building, which is structurally slightly raised above the ground, is accessed by ramps that literally draw the outdoor pathways towards the ensemble. The varied openings and alignments of the individual volumes not only create spacious and well-lit indoor areas but also provide differing perspectives onto the surroundings. The facades in vertical wooden slats lend the buildings a changing appearance depending on shading and the time of day; in some circumstances the silhouettes of the volumes seem to "vanish", allowing the natural surroundings and the position of the sun to influence the look of the indoor rooms and their effect.
The Observatoire, a 12-metre-high viewing tower built out of steel, is a further element of the ensemble, and is made up of four volumes – some vertical, the others stacked at oblique angles – that recall the museum in form. An open staircase leads through the open structure, linking the individual, house-shaped levels together. The individual platforms not only provide views of the surrounding landscape but also form visual correlations with the museum.
No matter the angle or perspective they are seen from, the elements in the ensemble awaken associations with pictures of conventional houses with pitched roofs, but seem to 'transform' into purely sculptural volumes when looked at more closely. The materials of steel and timber distinguish the buildings from traditionally-shaped houses, lending them the character of lively, playful objects in the natural surroundings.
The whole site close to Corbusier's Villa Savoye is located on the RER-Metro A line, which connects not only Paris, La Défense and Poissy but also the inhabitants of the greater Paris region with the recreation area and the newly-erected buildings. The ensemble is also to gain a restaurant – the Guinguette – which will feature a stilted terrace directly on the Seine to entice visitors to linger and even to dance, as the architects state.