In the late 1960s, a French cultural policy was affirmed and the democratization of culture under the leadership of André Malraux (French Minister of Culture, philosopher and writer) who defined a « House of Culture » as: " Primarily a home that should gather all the creative activities of a small town or a big city neighbourhood, in the field of culture”.
In 1961, the municipality of Georges Pianta decided to build a village hall. The architectural firm Maurice Novarina was appointed for the project. The proposedproject is radical.It imposes modernity without compromising the city landscape.
Between 1969 and 2012 the building sufferedmany architectural and program changes. We were dealing with a damaged and old building that suffered a lot of refurbishments over the years that had gradually erased its original qualities. It facades and programmatic development had to be rethought within its evolution and content that were neglected with the changes on cultural policies.
Thereforethrough its proposal,WIMM &the engineering team,questioned the use and the program of the current spaces of this cultural toolin parallel to the technical answer for the refurbishment and upgrading of the building.
The purpose was not to " re-think " the Theatre but to transform it into a new device closely related with contemporary cultural practices. As well as being a cultural object, the new design wanted to establish a new relationship with the public by : giving the building its minimalistic and unitary nature as a cultural place ; simplifying its connection to the city and restoring a space of cultural mediation with the public
The curtain wall facades of the building had a rare potential to amplify the theatrical interior spaces. These spaces would be places of encounter, communication and exchange around culture. Their perception both from the outside and the inside would be one of the key elements of the device.
"”The Urban shelf” of Jacques Tati is somehow resurrected. We worked in the reprogramming of these spaces and the way they were observed. The ground floor comprises: a large reception compartment which distributes the various activities gathered today in the building, a ticket counter, a bar/restaurant and spaces for the presentation of cultural activity. The access to the ground floors was simplified; the exhibition gallery is completely integrated with the equipment. The promenade became a meeting/ press conference space and a projection space creating an internal screen of the city. " Ana Luisa Gonçalves
Studies began by simplifying the floor plans. The interior spaces are redesigned so as to regain their initial fluidity and restore the connection of the equipment to the city. The exterior access to the exhibition gallery is erased and the façades east and west are extended towards the exterior without changing the initial volume so it can incorporate spaces of circulation, of exchanges, of leisure and entertainment (ex. balcony with view of the lake).
The original porch and stairs are removed so as to enhance the abstract dimension of the building. Only one access is proposed in the principal façade. This access works as a wide topography that extends and connects the volume to the square.
The new curtain glass wall creates an urban shelf that generates new activities. It challenges the cultural program as it proposes new events. The façades are reinforced by a visual filter, which consists of vertical lines that control thermal energy and provide comfort inside of the volume. Inspired by Kinetic Art and Op Art experiences, the façades perception changes with movement.
" If positioned in front of the façade the vertical metal lines disappear and allow the viewer to perceive the activities, then when movements take place objects blur before becoming again visible when facing one of the sides of the hexagon. The actions change with movement as a cultural changing screen" William Tenet, WIMM
The office proposal preserved the traces of the multiple interventions that took place on the building.To erase them would have led to applying a lot of “make-up”, hiding and denying that the principal of architecture is that buildings can and are able to be transformed and that often their intelligence resides in leaving tracks for future transformations. This idea led us to choose the approach of the interior design, character and nature of the renovation project. The theatre had changed, as had it users, and the plays / shows that are proposed. This mutation, in form and background, left traces that we could distinguish, analyse and work with.
The supporting structures are discreet and blend into the curtain wall. The new metal vertical structures of the glass façades find the right proportion and are aligned with the original prefabricated concrete structure. They underline and reinforce the special nature of this type of structure. The selected glass is also a recent feat of technology still little used in France. This is a high-performance, extra-clear glass, which allows both to be very transparent during the day while having an insulation performance and an important filtration UV for thermal comfort and control.
The urban shelf is created in two spaces, on the ground floor relates to the areas of reception of the public and communication of events and shows and on the first floor relates to the city and the lake.
On the ground floor the project offers an original design. The interiors were worked as theatre sets. A study of historic XX century theatre design and color sets was done and it served as inspiration to create the design for the wallpaper that covers the heart of the volume (exterior façades of the auditorium).
The interior design echoes the original tapestry and performances that have been played; it emphasizes an ambience and an atmosphere of the plays or shows to be seen.
The new floors are made of concrete and mark the different interventions while respecting the presence of the beautiful marble floor outlined by bands of metal. The first floor is uncluttered and the relationship with the outdoors becomes dominant and special.
The interior architecture is completed by two double-height glass volumes that are treated as galleries or balconies that allow an external connection with the setting, a large wall section suitable for projection, banquettes and chandeliers designed by Gaspard Lautrey elegantly recalling the interior fittings of old theatres.