• Saint-Herblain, France
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The context: On one side, a parking lot, slightly sloped towards the lake, surrounded by a 4-hectare shopping mall and a factory. On the other side, a park designed for leisurely walks around the lake. Thus a total dichotomy exists on this site: on the north side, the vision of man-made hell; on the south, the vision of natural paradise. The Onyx Cultural Center balances in-between these two worlds; it does not exist by itself; even with its scale and unbalanced position it cannot solve the contradiction of the site, but tries to give an essential continuity for the site’s overall coherence.


The proposition is to intensify the particular characteristics of each element, synthetic and vegetal, to play with the absolute contrast and to free a strong, poetic image through the tension of these contrasts. There is no rupture between the parking lot and the lake; but a superimposition. The parking lot is itself a landscaped element, bearing the signs of urbanity and of artificiality. The Cultural Center is thus placed in the parking lot, and the Aquatic Center along the lake. The volume of the Cultural Center rises up from the parking lot, contrasting with its site: it is cubic, compact, dense, and thick. There is no comparative element with the nearby buildings, neither in the scale nor volume. It inhabits the parking lot without being an integral part of it. It is black, but bright and sharp. The thickness of the building is conveyed through the thickness of its darkness, and appears as a monochrome block. The entrance is on the lakeside through a hall that leads to the double-height space of the exhibition rooms below. Only the main room, the heart of the building, distinguishes itself with a metallic grey finish. Color inscriptions on the floor give a multi-layered reading of the space: purple-red for the show curtain, curved and outlined punched brass for the balconies. These colors break the image of a standard multipurpose room.