The Paris office of Thibaud Babled Architectes Urbanistes just delivered a multipurpose complex comprised of 4 buildings, housing the headquarters of the Nantes Métropole “proximity” centre, an office of Pôle Emploi (national employment agency) and housing. The project’s varied program of high quality architectural and environmental design creates a link between the inner city of Nantes and its periphery.
At this pivotal juncture of city and periphery, Thibaud Babled chose to build a strong statement at the intersection of the high traffic volume of the boulevard and a hub of tram lines. The project grows out of the concept of a new metropolitan multi-modal centre at the intersection of main road and rail axes.
The complex of buildings includes some forty units of housing as well as offices to be occupied by Nantes Métropole and Pôle Emploi.
The architecture creates a fluctuating balance determined by the time of day and the seasons. The result is a low-tech cluster without complex technical systems or onerous and uncertain constraints regarding maintenance and upkeep.
The architect chose to use glass and aluminium to create a cube with high quality, homogeneous façades. This pioneering use of materials forms a hollowed out and luminous structure whose limits are determined by a ring of prefabricated concrete columns organised around a central atrium covered with a glass roof.
The interior plane of this envelope is structural and composed of insulated precast concrete walls, forming a water- and airtight envelope. The exterior plane is a porous envelope whose rhythm varies from one floor to the next. On contact with the street level it is composed of denser alternating voids and solids ensuring greater privacy for the offices, while becoming more open, as if in a vibrating rhythm of a blossom-like movement.
The project also has a more private built line at its point of contact with the pedestrian way and a lobby carpeted with a garden running up to the tram line. The offices are essentially distributed in the virtually perfect geometry of a cube, with a layout organised into concentric rings.
Inspiration for the project arose from the blending of an architectural vision, construction logic, quality of uses and environmental virtues. The result is a building that expresses a desire for balance between offices and housing units, gathered around an airy and spacious garden.