Epilepsy residential care home

Epilepsy residential care home

Atelier Martel
Dommartin-lès-Toul, France
Project Year
Care Homes
Mayanna von Ledebur

Epilepsy residential care home

Atelier Martel as Architects

The site is located between pastures and activity areas in the semi-urban fringe located at the outskirts of the small town of Dommartin-lès-Toul. It extends on a gentle slope in front of the parking of the former American hospital and opens up to the panorama of the Moselle valley. The value system based on which historical cities have been built has been substituted by the logic of traffic flow and lower cost. And even if it is unable to produce any urban quality, the so called “activity area” continues to be, most of the time, the place of work of contemporary architects, as it is where the cities expand and develop. At the same time, these unrestrained city fringes represent a source of imagination for the architects, a comparator, a particular landscape, extremely contemporary, hence fascinating, and therefore; able to convey emotions and memories.

The healthcare facility is a project enriched by these landscapes and proves that the answer can be poetic, a strong imaginary which finds its source in these big simple and autonomous objects, in the way one can access them – by car – in the sobriety of architectural processes, in the compactness of the objects answering to the landscapes, this sobriety of means reveals the importance of the details. The challenge of this type of suburban project resides in its capacity to use the lexicon of fragmented cities to make warm, caring and permanent objects. An optimistic and engaged discipline endorsing the ordinary and vernacular roadside architecture to create places where one can feel good.

Thebuilding initiative of such a House for people with epilepsy originated from a patient association. Therefore, a collaborative and participatory method of work has been implemented at the very beginning of the project including with doctors, patients, architects, the artist Mayanna von Ledebur. The crossing of experience and point of viewsas a result of this collective work has strongly impacted the project itself: the selection of the location, the material, the rationalization of the plan, and the creation of a protective and openenvironment. This work has defined the level of domestic services, of sweetness and comfort this big isolated structure should offer. Due to the very nature of its program and presence, the building is constantly coping with contrasts between the immensity of the suburban landscape and the privacy of the rooms, the monumental character of the medical institution and the capacity to create appropriable premises, between a daily residence and a site that was nothing more than a parking space behind a hospital.

The economic constraints governing the current constructions world have forced the Atelier to design a working method aiming at eliminating the superfluous and concentrating on the essential; the idea of discipline as an art of building. That way of thinking should be perceived as a memory, a culture, the reminiscence of an attention to details, the material, the hand, thecraft. A powerful catalyst making us want to build timeless buildings while examining the questions architects have always raised. This building is an excellent example of this radical method aiming at doing always more with less means, thereby demonstrating a strong willingness to ease unbalanced situations.

Build a groundfloor building, break the volume of four large planted patios, soften the rough concretethrough a curved matrix, use the walls to hang colorful wool tapestries. These typological and constructive measures are enough to blur the boarders between the worlds and summon a succession of images adding to the complexity of the project: it's a shed but also a cloister, a house, a public place, a school, a playground, a garden.

The singularity of the project and the link between the various actors have been crucial.

The social commitment of the projects’ founder allowed to develop a very broad network of expertise and tap the human potential giving all its value to a building with poor means. The use of an artist, which the Atelier systematizes, in the very early process of the project design, has allowed a new expression of words, facilitated the dialogue between all the actors and promoted the appropriation mechanisms. This project advocates for a process of creating urban objects based on the pooling of experiencesin order to redirect the ordinary shapes into specific and poetic places.

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