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Timber test: Regis Racine Gymnasium Drancy, Paris, by Alexandre Dreyssé.

Gym interior.

Photos: Guillaume Clement / Atelier Dreyssé.

In a dense residential district of Drancy in north east Paris there was a need for a sports hall, dance studio and community hall with ancillary facilities for school and community use. The facilities would be shared by several local schools but the sports hall had to be optimised for regional basketball competitions.

75 % of the building sits on the site boundary which is overlooked by residential gardens. This meant that there was limited opportunity for façade openings and yet, as much daylight as possible was required to enter the spaces. The result, designed byAtelier d'Architecture Alexandre Dreyssé, was an inward-looking building that is also something of an essay in the use of wood.

Timber, chosen for its environmentally sustainable qualities, was used in three ways to give a different ambience to each of the main spaces. The main sports hall uses glue-lam beams in cross arches evoking a vaulted church ceiling. A polycarbonate glazing system over the central part of the arch floods the space with natural light. The architect refers to this space as “the nave” perhaps giving an insight into how he sees the structure.

The community hall has façade glazing and so its roof does not necessarily need to admit light. Curved glue-lam beams are overlaid with timber boarding to give a construction of an entirely timber appearance, reminiscent of being under an upturned ship.

The dance studio roof, on the other hand, has an egg crate construction whose curves are cut from thin sheets of laminated timber product similar to ply-faced “blockboard”. Here clerestory glazing gives an entirely different feel to the space – more contemporary somehow.

Perspective of gym.

Roof detail.

Bay detail.

External facade.

Facade detail.

Coloured light.

Community hall roof.

Community hall.

Dance studio roof.

Dance studio perspective.

Dance studio.


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