L'Arche by K Architectures explores compelling themes of timelessness in a dramatic landscape setting
GUILLAUME AMAT

L'Arche by K Architectures explores compelling themes of timelessness in a dramatic landscape setting

12 May 2023  •  ニュース  •  By Allie Shiell

Situated in the small town of Villerupt, which lies in the Lorraine region and near the border with Luxembourg, L'Arche is a unique building that explores the theme of timelessness that K Architectures continue to manifest in their creations.

photo_credit GUILLAUME AMAT
GUILLAUME AMAT

The town of Villerupt has a solid working-class history built on the once plentiful resource of iron ore. The expansion of this resource led to a growth of inhabitants from just 560 in the year 1860, to a population of nearly 16,000 a century later. Many of these inhabitants came from Italy to fill the tens of thousands of jobs related to the extraction and processing of iron ore. Four generations later, their descendants remain connected to their background with modern-day Villerupt featuring events such as an Italian film festival of national scope. And while most industrial facilities have been dismantled, the landscape retains some reminders of this industrial period. Particularly imposing are the giant retaining walls, which sit in compelling dialogue with L'Arche.

photo_credit GUILLAUME AMAT
GUILLAUME AMAT

Villerupt is also one of a string of municipalities built in the Alzette Valley that are united by a shared industrial history and commitment to constructing a new, future-minded post-industrial district that enjoys a massive labor demand from neighboring Luxembourg. As a result, these municipalities have joined forces to undertake a major redevelopment and begin the construction of a new district with a different future. L'Arche is one of the landmark first projects in this transition.

Programmed as a hybrid cultural space where digital arts, creative industries, and multiple artistic practices unite, L'Arche features a bar-restaurant, cinema, performance hall, a 'fablab', and an immersive digital art gallery.  

photo_credit GUILLAUME AMAT
GUILLAUME AMAT

The town's Italian working-class background and monumental landscape inspired architects Karine Hernan and Jérôme Sigwalt towards a particularly singular, massive architecture with a mineral morphology that responds with the same power to the disproportionate wall that borders it.
Several other references inform the architecture, including the principle of the arcade, a structural concept dating back to the Colosseum in Rome. Another key reference was found in Casa Malaparte in Capri, an icon of Italian rationalist architecture with L'arche shaped to recall the singular form of the house.

photo_credit GUILLAUME AMAT
GUILLAUME AMAT

The massive volume, beveled on the fifth façade, includes a monumental paved staircase that draws the eyes up the height of the wall. A high-level landing is designed as a belvedere and awaits the installation of a building combining architecture and digital art. The volume slopes downward from its peak and opens generously in an arcade facing the Esplanade Nino Rota, named for the famed Italian composer. The arcaded façade opens to the public with a hall animated by a bar-restaurant and a small ephemeral space.

photo_credit GUILLAUME AMAT
GUILLAUME AMAT

The building's interior is likewise contemporary and minimalist. A large volume of the hall, filled with natural light, welcomes the public in the grand tradition of the theatrical foyer. A monumental staircase leads to the balcony of the main hall, and lighting is provided by chandeliers of two specific types, one type convex and the other concave, created specifically for the space. The lighting fixtures are framed in raw steel and designed to support technical lighting fixtures along cone-shaped lines. The lamps are coated with a show gelatin to colour the light in the dominant tones of a Lorraine sunset.

photo_credit GUILLAUME AMAT
GUILLAUME AMAT

The architects note they never push their picturesque referents beyond the limits of abstraction, refusing to let their work stand out in history. Not so that they don't have an age, but so that they have several ages. "Buildings of contemporary writing too often tell only of a simple disinterest in history. We are looking for the exact opposite," says Jérôme Sigwalt.