A PATRIMONIAL APPROACH The Couriot site is strongly anchored in history and in its landscape. Its importance in industrial development at a national scale, its landscape composition offering an open book into the workings of the mining industry, and its well preserved state have justified its classification as a national monument. The site has preserved a strong authentic appearance due to a long period of abandonment The basis for the reorganization of the museum evolves around two main axis: • Preserving the landscape with its abandoned atmosphere • Reinforce the identity of the different layers.
On one hand, the fact that a large part of the site around the museum buildings has barely changed since the mine’s closure, allows the park visitors the possibility to establish via the different carefully preserved remains, a link in time, with the last moments of the mine’s long past. Discrete localized changes in the surface punctuate the west part of the site, forming a field which evokes the past, a place where memories are refined, without demanding that they be fixed precisely along with their origins or their functions.
In a way, this part of the site is a silent extension of the museum On the other hand, the city of Saint Etienne wanted a new park close to the city center. Two transport lines, rail and the Boulevard Pierre Mendès-France, prevent a fluid access to the museum as well as the park. It is necessary to cross these limits, and our master plan provides to ways to do so; one by extending thestreet Aristide Briand, the other at the intersection between Pierre Mendès-France and Rue de l’Apprentissage.
The economic constraints rescheduled these works to a second phase, but it is particularly at the park edges where these decisive links will be made with more contemporary and active spaces and equipment.
Hence there will be a west side of silent memories, and an east side more modern and animated. Building with what exists We write “ It’s less about what to add, rather what to cut away” Our intention to reinforce the spirit of a museum park, refusing any new construction on the historical site, a part perhaps from the Est side, must take foundation in the re valorization of the existing buildings, and their history. Each acting as a media participating in the understanding of the site and its pervious activities.
The reconversion of the existing buildings fulfills a particularly tight economic objective of the brief, and is part of the sustainable development strategy, which in turn allows us to question what is reusable amongst that which is available.
Certain buildings are stabilized and sustained by simple means ( engine workshop, compressor rooms) others are renovated to a greater extent due to their poor state of repair (security winch, first washing facility ) in order to allow pubic access.
Finally, three spaces will be treated more fully to allow for specific exhibition areas ( first mining lamp store, first heating system ) These interventions allow to enhance the path through the buildings, as well as increasing the overall museum exhibition capacity. The choice of museum spaces was made by taking into account their patrimonial value, allowing visitors to discover the major patrimonial spaces and their historical and social impact The choice also took into account the discovery aspect of the visit. The aim is to avoid impacting the existing building structures, without touching the building’s outside envelope, in order to build new constructions within. The intervention is therefore reversible.
One of the challenges of the museum installation is to develop an envelope which responds to the high demands in terms of presentation and conservation of the exhibits.
An assemblage of galleries, contemporary constructions, completely independent of the existing structure, are implanted within the buildings, allowing the installation of the collection with optimized temperature and lighting control.
The galleries follow the linear rhythm of the existing structure without ever touching it. On entering the building, the existing structure is immediately visible; the real entrance to the exhibition occurs a little further along via a glass passage. A series of glazed crossings link the galleries together.
The ground is marked, the rails remain visible. The existing walls and framework are untouched and are visible from the gable ends of the galleries.
The new envelope adapts to the museum installation. The dimensions, openings the walkways… The complex is composed of a wood frame integrating thermal insulation. The skin is made up of dark stained oakpaneling which enhance the presentation of the exhibits. The ground is treated in the same oak flooring forming a technical plenum.
Our architectural and museographical approach proposes a delicate intervention “within the walls”, without undermining the identity of the buildings, a contemporary vision via a dialogue between the old and the new, between heritage and modernity.