POLARIS
Julien Lanoo

Polaris

LAN Architecture as Architects

First building of the future Polaris District

The development of the Brossett e site completes the transformation of the Boulevard Vincent-Gâche, with the largest project ever built on the Île de Nantes. This island, formerly an industrial zone of warehouses belonging to the manufacturer of lavatory components, this 1.5 hectare lot facing the Loire River, will soon be home to a total of six new buildings, with mixed-use programs, including a panoramic 18-story tower, delivered in April 2018.


Convinced of the ineffi cacy of the principle of restrictive specifi cations briefs (typical of ‘ZACs’ of joint development zones) in the urban fabric, the project, the outcome of a competition, proposes a new method. Integrated into the continuity of the work of the UAPS (authority in charge of the urban development of the Île de Nantes), LAN originated from the design of a master plan and the grand urban principles underpinning this project, and with the offi ce as the lead contractor of a consortium of architects who have worked on this ensemble in order to adjust forms and dimensions able to house the program while strengthening the design of the public space.


In parallel, the eff ort to imbue the neighborhood with a genuine identity is manifested in a jointly decided defi nition: to imagine the occupation of spaces, establish a relationship between the potential size and the façades, study the prevailing winds and sunlight, are all subjects analyzed together to ensure a coherent urban result. The site is at the intersection of several formal systems: buildings dating from the 1970s condominiums based on the model of large housing projects or “estates,” an offi ce complex with courtyards and gardens which was never entirely completed and the intervention of Alexandre Chemetoff, architect of the fi rst phase of the islands urban renewal.


This heterogeneous context called for an approach bringing greater cohesion, as proposed by Anne-Mie Depuydt and Marcel Smets, the urban planners in charge of the Île de Nantes. Thus, the new buildings enclose the public space by creating fronts. The buildings are laid out based on a system of strips; they cross the site from one end to the other and off er new pathways to place the core area in tension with the banks of the river.


The interior areas created by the buildings emerge and are organized into squares, forecourts, terraces and gardens, thereby enhancing the range of uses based on specifi c themes, according to the requirements of the public space.


Despite the fact this lot is entirely privately owned, all the outdoor spaces are open to the city. The district having become an entirely pedestrian zone is traversed by a central avenue; the backbone of the island, it leads to the core area of the project : a broad plaza in front of the tower, now renamed the “360° View”, will become a public plaza ceded to the city. Here, four enormous polar trees dialog with the façade clad in brushed aluminum. It refl ects its surroundings in daylight and enlivens the plaza at night in the interplay of sidelights with the perforated shutt ers. Viewed from the south, the building closes the perspective.


From the north, and the river, it sets the tone of the development. At the foot of the tower, Polaris is home to a vast campus, slightly more than 3,000 m2, in which the Vatel international school of hotel management and tourism chose to place its new site. It includes classrooms, a restaurant, a brasserie and a café open to the public, as well as a residence-service for students with 300 apartments. The program also includes an additional 250 apartments and 6,500 m2 of offi ce space and 600 m2 of shops distributed among the diff erent plots of the development. In addition to the alignment of the fl oors from one building to the next, and they share the regularity of the openings of the façades; each shared space – regardless of its position on the site of the building to which it belongs – come together on the same level, the one off ering an unobstructed view of the skyline of the older center city in the distance.

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