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A haptic signal: Cultural centre in Normandy

The plans for this cultural centre revolved around one aim: creating a contemporary building for a lot defined by its environment and the surrounding houses.

Architect: AAVP, Paris
Gournay-en-Bray, Normandy, France

The former workshop, known as L'Atelier, stands in the small Normandy town of Gournay-en-Bray. It is home to a public multimedia library for adults and children, a dance school, a music school and space for a wide range of activities. The H-shaped building blends seamlessly into its bucolic surroundings and is a fitting companion for the existing structures. 

The new complex is located on the old factory grounds of a clothing company. With this design, the architects placed high value on creating a connection between old and new which would adapt to existing gardens and other buildings while bringing out their best features as well. This guiding principle can be seen primarily in the shape of the building and the choice of raw materials.

From the main street, the striking 'signal house' acts as a showcase, drawing visitors' attention to what is happening behind the high gate. The signal house, whose steel construction is completely covered in semitransparent copper, fits neatly into the frame of the neighbouring building. This is the future home of the centre's administration offices. 

The path from the entry gate leads through the complex to the main building, which stands in the middle. The two bowed main bodies are connected via a large, glassed-in space which is simultaneously the main entrance, exhibition space and event room. The single-storey library wing is characterized by its bright interior spaces and pleasant light. The library's reading rooms are located in the jutting boxes found in this part of the building. The dance school is found on the ground floor of the second, more private, wing. Upstairs, the music school occupies the space above the dance school.

The structure is supported by a steel framework made virtually invisible by interior and exterior cladding. The appearance of the building is homogeneous. The materials, in harmonious colours, produce a monolithic effect.

Canadian slate in deep violet was used for the roof and wall cladding. The protruding library reading rooms are clad in larchwood.  All window apertures follow the spatial concept and provide a greater degree of intimacy and less direct sunlight on the ground floor. They have been adorned with the same copper latticework as the main foyer. Copper façade cladding continues throughout the complex and serves as a connective feature. The building materials used here reflect regional handicrafts.

The cultural centre was distinguished with the Grand Prix Régional d'architecture et d'urbanisme de Haute-Normandie 2014. It fits perfectly in these surroundings, standing dynamically among green landscapes and enriching the centre of this small French town.

Project data

Client: Municipal administration of Gournay-en-Bray
Site area:7.700 m2
Building area:
2.545 m²
Costs: 5.79 million Euro

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DETAIL 1+2/2020
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