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The Cité Nature scientific centre is located in Arras, a town in the northern part of France. It is in the middle of a zone currently undergoing major restructuring. The site takes the form of a triangle covering approximately 25,000 m². Several industrial buildings used to occupy this land. Only the Arras-Maxei factory on Boulevard Schumann, along with another industrial building and a water tower at the top of the triangle, remain. Due to their location, these constructions reinforce the site’s geometry.
A large garden between the two buildings stretches out to the west along the Scarpe canal. The goal is to provide an aesthetically pleasing industrial building which blends well with the natural landscape – an essential part of this project.
The Exhibition Centre was created within the Arras-Maxei factory, built in 1922 and an early example of concrete construction. It holds genuine architectural interest which AJN decided to enhance. The building consists of an imposing single volume: 158 meters long, 24 meters wide, and 12 meters-high. The objective was to preserve this volume for exhibits requiring significant floor area. The former plant houses an exhibition centre, a documentation centre, a reception/ticket office, as well as a tasting area on the ground floor. The first floor houses temporary exhibitions as well as a multimedia room and offices. This building is a concrete monolith bathed in light. Because it holds exhibitions with bright-coloured features, the walls were restored to their original character. Floor finishes were chosen to harmonize with the walls. Added elements are generally of galvanized steel. The rigour which characterizes the interior also orders the façades. From the outside, the building looks like a pure grey monolith with repetitive glass and steel facades. The preserved industrial warehouse also includes a future space dedicated to special events, a storage area, as well as accommodation for the keeper. Its light structure spans 24 meters and makes a great sheltered area, a stage set. The building remains firmly rooted in an industrial vernacular. On its brick facades, stratified layers show the long history of its industrial past.