Hal le Girard: transformed to house Lyon’s French Tech, the new incubator for digital businesses, a space for events and a base for digital s tar t-ups.
Confluence is one of the largest town centre expansion projects in Europe. Covering 150 hectares, at the end of the 1990s it was composed of 70 hectares of industrial wasteland and derelict logistics and port facilities at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône rivers, extending out from the core of the city centre thus doubling its surface area. Confluence was designed to allow Lyon to welcome 30,000 new inhabitants and workers into the city centre. In addition to its geographic location, the transformation of this district has been founded on decisions which aim to make it a showcase for the city of the future:
- A smart and sustainable city, exemplary in terms of energy consumption
- A hub for new forms of mobility and a walkable city
- Striking architecture
- A city for all which encourages social diversity
Situated at the extremity of the Confluence district, the Halle Girard contributes to the urban regeneration model, combining industrial heritage and innovative construction in an eco-district rich in architectural and urban innovations. Urban planning, architecture, integrating nature… creativity is Confluence’s brand identity.
WHO ARE SPL LYON CONFLUENCE?
The Société Publique Locale Lyon Confluence was set up in 1999 by the Lyon metropolitan area council (Métropole de Lyon) to design, build and promote the Confluence urban project. It conducts the studies, designates the project managers and clients, organises the worksites, consultations and communication, and so on.
A HISTORIC BUILDING
A former factory dating from 1857, the Halle Girard is the last vestige, along with the Halle Caoutchouc, of the industrial past of the Confluence district. Its characteristic 19th century industrial architecture, is a clear statement, with its Art Deco facade on the banks of the Rhône, a main building of spectacular dimensions, flanked either side with the north and south workshops and their shed roofs. It is located at a strategic point in the layout of the Confluence commercial zone 2 as designed by Herzog and De Meuron, at the interface between the development of the dense city and the large natural expanse, known as “the Field”, which in time will join the southern tip of the site.
A NEW PLACE TO LIVE
The H7 project constitutes the transformation of this industrial heritage to service new ways of working, emblematic of the metamorphosis of the Confluence district towards innovation and creativity. With its vast covered hall open onto the surrounding environment, the new project represents the starting point for the dynamic to develop “the Field” and creative industries in the area. Opening the former factory onto the environment is also a way of reinventing a new living space, of occupying the large industrial space with more freedom, more comfort, and more room to breathe. A desire to extend the urban life of the dense future city, under the great nave of the hall, and to open the former boiler shop onto “the Field” of the Confluence district. This transformation readies the district for the contemporary, digital world, as it provides a home to H7 and becomes a hub of digital innovation, emblematic of the digital and entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Lyon area.
A LIGHT-TOUCH INTERVENTION, LEAVING ROOM FOR UNEXPECTED USES TO EMERGE
In this context, how can new, innovative work and support spaces be integrated into the historic walls of the former boiler shop, without affecting the intrinsic qualities of the large industrial hall, its unity, its cathedral-like volumes, its slender metal framework, and its soft lighting, without diluting or distorting its history? For these reasons, the project only does the strict minimum. It preserves the structure and envelope which are of course indispensable, as the primary components of the space, providing protection and a space which exchanges with the exterior, and because they are the most durable parts of the project. It also speaks the architectural language of the place, which is vital in order to resonate with its temporality. Finally, it proposes a simple and effective architectural response, adapted to the specificities and potential of this industrial hall, as well as the innovative future uses which may emerge, and the unpredictability of the digital ecosystem.
AN ORGANISATION ADAPTED TO THE CHARACTERISTICS OF A RENOVATED INDUSTRIAL BUILDING
The project’s functional standpoint is to make a clear distinction between the two main spaces: the work and support spaces and the events spaces. This distinction is drawn by making optimal use of the existing hall and its spatial specificities: the generous volumes, with no load-bearing features in the main central nave for the events area, the large surface available and the quality of overhead light from the southern shed roofs for the tertiary spaces. The proposed spatial organisation also defines a number of functional sub-spaces depending on the level of confidentiality required and the ownership of the living spaces: the more public areas on the city side, the more private areas on “the Field” side.
AN EMPTY SPACE WHICH BRINGS PEOPLE TOGETHER
Extending out from the large events space, the structure of the main nave of the hall and its roof are preserved to make a large empty space available, protected from bad weather. Here, the transverse designed by the urban planners Herzog and De Meuron which will ultimately link the Saône to the Rhône, can dilate, absorbing the space cleared by the hall to create a covered square. With the increased visibility city side, magnified by its digital staging, H7 constitutes an emblematic point of reference, a place where the whole Confluence district can converge, an urban showcase for Lyon’s digital ecosystem.