Les Turbulences – FRAC Centre in Orléans by Jakob + MacFarlane
Text: Florian Maier
On 14 September 2013, the Regional Fund for Contemporary Art in the Centre region of France (FRAC Centre) opens its doors in a new location perfectly in tune with its missions and vocation: the diffusion of contemporary art and architecture. The dynamic development of the architectural extension concept from architects Jakob + MacFarlane, gave the new venue its name: The Turbulences.
Architects: Jakob + MacFarlane
Location: 88 rue du Colombier, 45000 Orléans, France
The 23 regional funds for contemporary art [FRACs] were created in 1982 as part of the decentralization policy introduced by the State with the Regional Councils. After 30 years of collecting, the so-called “new generation” FRACs are setting up shop in new facilities better adapted to their tasks of conservation, distribution, and information and awareness about contemporary art.
With the help of the Ministry of Culture and Communication and local authorities, seven regions have embarked on a new adventure, by choosing to build a facility designed for their programme: in Brittany, in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, in Franche-Comté (all already opened), in the Centre Region, in Nord-Pas de Calais (both opening in September 2013) in Aquitaine and in Basse-Normandie (completions in 2015).
Innovative and daring architecture
FRAC Centre is located at a former military site in Orléans (‘Subsistances militaires’) which has been renovated by the architects Jakob + MacFarlane. The goal was to develop new functional amenities which the FRAC Centre’s old premises did not permit. The new facility will be capable of meeting the public’s expectations: permanent collection, temporary exhibitions, public reception area, documentation centre, educational workshop, etc.
Architects Jakob + MacFarlane have opted for a strong physical presence. The extension, christened ‘The Turbulences’ because of its prefabricated tubular structure covered by an anodised aluminium casing, conceptualizes dynamic architecture. Partly covered by an interactive ‘veil of light,’ produced by the associate artists Electronic Shadow, the Turbulences will be programmed in real time.
The site of the new FRAC Centre
Designed in the 18th century as a detention centre, the original building was converted back into a hospice before undergoing important developments with a view to establishing a military supply depot in 1837. Disused in the 1980s, between 1999 and 2006 the venue hosted the international ArchiLab event, devoted to research architecture. It was then chosen, in the 2006 competition, to house the new FRAC Centre, to provide the best possible response to the tasks and vocation of a Regional fund for Contemporary Art.
The challenge of the competition was the museographical renovation and refurbishment of that old army depot, with its overall area of 3.300 m² / 35,000 sqft., with the introduction of an “urban signal”. The presence of the Electronic Shadow artists within the design team, as requested by the contracting authority, lent that competition a novel dimension, making it possible to associate artists with the design phases of the architectural project.
Jakob + MacFarlane have brought to the fore an emerging dynamic form based on the parametric deformation and the extrusion of the grids of the existing buildings. As a strong architectural signal interacting with its context, this fluid, hybrid structure develops likes three glass and metal excrescences in the inner courtyard, in the very heart of the Subsistances. The principle of emergence is extended to the immediate surroundings: the courtyard is treated like a public place, a topographical surface which forms the link between all the buildings, and accommodates the FRAC Centre programme. This surface goes hand in hand with the natural differences in level of the site towards the building’s entrance, reinforces the visual dynamics of the Turbulences, and stretches away towards the city in a movement of organic expansion.
The destruction of a main building and the surrounding wall on Boulevard Rocheplatte has made it possible to greatly open up the new architectural complex to the city. Thanks to its new urban façade, the FRAC Centre is connected to the cultural urban network of Orléans, and the inner courtyard has been turned into nothing less than a square. The new architectural presence has become the point of gravity of the Subsistances site, a new structure, and a new geometry. The architectural extension comes powerfully across through its prototypical dimension, which echoes the identity of the FRAC Centre and its collection.
The glass and steel excrescences of the Turbulences house a public reception area and organize the flow of visitors towards the exhibition areas, situated in the existing main buildings. The critical dimension of the work, conveyed by its structural complexity, is transcribed on all the project’s scales. The tubular metal structure, reinforced by a secondary structure supporting the exterior covering panels (aluminium panels, either solid or perforated) and the interior panels (made of wood), is formed by unusual and unique elements. The lower parts of the Turbulences are clad with prefabricated concrete panels, which provide the continuity of the building with the courtyard. The apparent disjunction between the two architectural orders is offset by the impression of emergence given by the Turbulences.
The light, prefabricated structure of the Turbulences has been entirely designed using digital tools. All the building trades involved worked on the basis of one and the same modelling file. The structures were subject to a trial assembly in the factory where the tubes were welded, before the permanent onsite assembly.
In this project, the at once conceptual and surgical approach to the urban fabric developed by Jakob + MacFarlane redefines the site in order to incorporate in it new points of equilibrium, “shifting” the architecture and offering contemporary art a dynamic and evolving image. The architectural intervention, with its complex, facetted geometry, stands out against the symmetry and sobriety of the Subsistances site whose period structures and materials are left visible.
As ‘living’ architecture permeable to urban ebbs and flows, the Turbulences – FRAC Centre thus becomes the emblem of a place devoted to experimentation in all its forms, to the hybridization of disciplines, and to architectural changes occurring in the digital age.
The artistic contribution of Electronic Shadow, Resonance
The Jakob + MacFarlane extension, conceived like a graft on the existing buildings, introduces a principle of interaction with the urban environment activated by a “skin of light” on the Turbulences, designed by the artists’ duo Electronic Shadow (Niziha Mestaoui and Yacine Aït Kaci), the associate artist and joint winner of the competition.
Their proposal consists in covering a part of the Turbulences, giving onto the boulevard, with several hundred diodes, thus introducing a “media façade”, a dynamic interface between the building and the urban space. Using the construction lines of the Turbulences, the points of light become denser, passing from point to line, line to surface, surface to volume, and volume to image. This interactive skin of light, integrated in the building like a lattice-work moucharaby, will function in real time and develop a state of “resonance” with its environment, based on information coming, for example, from climatic data (daylight, wind, etc.) as well as animated image scenarios devised by the artists.
The building’s surface will thus be informed by flows of information, transcribing them as light-images. These luminous signs, the result of a computer programme, implement the merger of image and matter, turning The Turbulencess into “immaterial architecture”.
The garden of the ruedurepos agency
The garden (400 m²/4500 sqft.) of the ruedurepos agency comes across like a mineral setting with plants, situated behind the central building and visible from the courtyard. Called “La faille/The Fault”, it proposes, at some remove, a dialogue between construction and greenery. Several levels will be engaged in this dialogue: pozzuolana bed, Corten steel furniture this side of the ground level, and vegetation formed, among other things, by a grassy area of ophiopogons punctuated by pink lilies and sumacs.
The functional features of the new building
- The FRAC Centre will have at its disposal a facility perfectly adapted to its tasks of dissemination and public reception, with an overall surface area of about 3000 m² / 32,000 sqft.
- The FRAC Centre collection devoted to art and experimental architecture will be permanently accessible in a gallery (375 m² / 4,000 sqft.) which, when it opens, will display the emblematic works of the collection; it will subsequently put on repeated shows.
- Visitors will follow a temporary exhibition circuit (1100 m² / 12,000 sqft.) throughout the U-shaped building. Five exhibition rooms in all will house monographic and thematic shows.
- School children will henceforward have access to an educational workshop (MicroLab) (180 m² / 2,000 sqft.), while researchers and students will be able to come by appointment to consult publications in the documentation centre.
- The FRAC Centre also has outside reserves holding works on the outskirts of Orléans with an overall surface of 1500 m² / 16,000 sqft., in compliance with conservation standards.
- The Turbulences is a place where the public is welcomed and visitors find guidance. This multipurpose space is also a convivial place with an area for light refreshments, a screening room, a bookshop, presentation of works, etc.
- Visitors will also have access to the garden (400 m² / 4,300 sqft.), a setting filled with plants situated behind the building, designed as a place of relaxation. The garden will have its own specific programming: presentation of works, open air cinema, etc.
A unique collection of architecture
A collection, a laboratory, a resource, and a centre for research, as well as a site for experimentation, the Turbulences – FRAC Centre will offer another experience of art and architecture. Its unique collection brings together contemporary art and experimental architecture from the 1950s to today. Internationally renowned, to date it includes some 15,000 architectural drawings, 800 models and 600 works by artists.
Examples of the permanent exhibition
The opening programme will be heralded by the 9th ArchiLab, international architecture meeting and some thirty events associated with Orléans and in the Centre region.
9th ArchiLab - Naturalizing Architecture
14 September 2013 - 2 February 2014
Created in 1999, the prerogative of this internationally renowned event is to be a true laboratory for architecture, presenting the most advanced research in terms of architectural creation on each occasion. Curated by its founders, Marie-Ange Brayer, Director of FRAC Centre and Frédéric Migayrou, Deputy Director of the Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, this new event ‘Naturaliser l’architecture’ (Naturalizing Architecture) is devoted to the interaction between digital architecture and the sciences, exploring the challenges faced in simulating the living world.
Programme (PDF download)
History of the FRACs
The 23 regional funds for contemporary art [FRACs] were created in 1982 as part of the decentralization policy introduced by the State with the Regional Councils. They represent an exemplary support tool for creative activity, regional and local cultural development, and raising public awareness about art, combined with the principle of collection mobility which hallmarks all the FRACs. The dissemination and distribution of works, their circulation by way of the very numerous exhibitions and shows which they hold in their premises and mainly in venues not earmarked for culture, and their publishing activities all help to make contemporary art accessible to the largest possible audience.
Their principal brief consists in:
- The creation of contemporary art collections in the regions and support for living art through a combined programme of acquisitions and art work commissions.
- The dissemination of these collections through a policy of exhibitions and loans, and through raising public awareness about contemporary forms of visual art through the widest possible dissemination of acquired works, at the regional, national and international level.
1983: Creation of the Regional fund for Contemporary Art by the Ministry of Culture in partnership with regional councils.
1991: Orientation of the FRAC Centre collection around art and architecture by Frédéric Migayrou.
From 1995 onward: International exhibitions devoted to the collection including the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo in 2004-05; the Barbican Art Gallery in London in 2006; the Fine Arts Museum in Taipei in 2008.
1999: The first ArchiLab event, laboratoire International d’Architecture d’Orléans, at the Subsistances militaires site, curated by M.-A. Brayer and F. Migayrou.
2006 : International competition for the renovation of the Subsistances militaires site and the installation of the FRAC Centre. Winning architects: Jakob + MacFarlane. Joint winner artists: Electronic Shadow.
2009 (November): Foundation stone laid.
2013: Inauguration of The Turbulences / FRAC Centre, and the 9th Archilab event. 30 years of FRACs.