Water sports centre, Paris
Agence SEARCH realizes aquatic serenity in an urban environment.
PARIS (FR) - Marking its beginning with the 2005 competition win for the Mantes-la-Jolie water sports centre – the young firm's very first competition, in which it challenged teams of international calibre – Agence SEARCH was then honoured in 2006 with the Nouveaux Albums des Jeunes Architectes (NAJA), a prize awarded by the Ministry of Culture and Communication to the best young architects in France. Recently completed, the water sports centre simultaneously symbolizes urban renewal and the greater landscape which surrounds it, unified by the common element of water.
Foremost in this regard is the structure's undulating, wave-like form, screened on the side facing the city by a conspicuous white latticework facade, something the architects refer to as a mashrabiya. The green roofs reflect the nearby hillsides across the Seine, and together with the porous exterior and interior design, the centre positions itself metaphorically has a filter between city and nature, neighbourhood and community. It optimistically expresses both its context and function as a new aquatic landscape seated in the urban environment, a calming aspect set against the area's troublesome character. (Dutton R. Hauhart)
The new water sports centre Mantes-la-Jolie is emblematic of urban renewal in the Val-Fourré public housing projects. Located in the neighbourhood 'Quartier des Peintres', known for its problematic social and urban environment, the new buildings are the latest in a series of programs dating back over a decade.
Beyond being major sports facilities, they are an important neighbourhood gathering space, as well as a destination intended to open up the projects to the outside community. The Val-Fourré projects are located on the banks of the Seine. In addition to social integration, the new complex is tasked with the joining together of cityscape and landscape.
There are three major ways to interpret the Mantes-la-Jolie water sports centre: as a part the greater landscape, as a filter, and through the theme of water. The project is situated at the junction of cityscape and landscape. On the banks of the Seine, it constitutes an exceptional opportunity to reinvigorate the dialogue between the Val-Fourrée housing projects and the Vexin hillsides.
The design of the public garden reprises the Vexin hills with an abstract undulating form that is extended and accentuated with the building – the landscape thus becomes architecture and the building takes on the scale of the surrounding countryside. From this point of view, the green roof resonates with the Vexin hillsides and embodies the symbolism of the project.
The desire to be one with nature, to be in direct connection with the landscape is also felt from within the building. In the swimming pools, the public is visually connected to the outside through a glass facade that is generous both in its size and in its sophisticated details. No obstacle blocks the continuity of the swimming pools, the landscaped garden, and in the background the Vexin hillsides and the sky.
On the south facade, city side, the site has a single entrance, through an esplanade that overlooks the Vexin hillsides. Approaching the building from this direction, from the perspective of the Val-Fourré neighbourhood, reveals the second structuring theme of the project, that of gradation. A unifier of urban life and nature, the facility is structured by the interplay of transparencies, beginning with the mashrabiya on the south facade and extending inside the building through a series of porous spaces. Views of the Vexin hillsides are carefully composed, filtered through a succession of frameworks.
The porosity and progressive gradation between urbanity, interiority, and the landscape beyond, express a desire to open up the facility to its environment. Particularly attractive, this singular and novel building introduces the landscape to the urban fabric. Its playful character is a dynamic element for the community, and its transparencies enable the public to make out its internal activities, and thus act as an invitation to enter the building.
Nevertheless, the different filters also ensure the intimacy of the users, who though not being entirely hidden, are not exposed to the eyes of the street. Moreover, from the inside, the views of the Val Fourré housing projects are observed through filters to singular effect, renewing the perception of an architecture that is often discredited. The extreme urbanity of the neighbourhood is softened, contributing to the creation of a serene atmosphere within the building.
Wednesday | 25 January | 2012 | France | Agence SEARCH