The project consists of the headquarters of the Chamber of Trades and a centre of education and training for the Pays Basque region in the South West of France. The site sits on the edge of Bayonne within a natural wooded valley, overlooked by the surrounding hills, colonised by dense wild local vegetation. Simply explained, the programme contains roughly 3000m2 of tertiary shared work spaces (offices, conference and lecture halls including restaurants and café etc.), and 6000m2 of educational and workshop facilities.
From the roadside, a series of poplar trees allows the eye to be guided towards the hilly backdrop and at the same time letting the principal building elevation breathe within in its context. In addition to the delicate landscape treatment throughout the project, an emphasis was also placed on the recycling of rain and surface run off water to maintain these green surroundings.
Reading the architectural and landscape composition together one appreciates that the building has been primarily set out parallel to the existing roadway. The highest object strata comes to rest at 19m above ground level, belonging to that of the office spaces aligned east west, whose presence is appreciated by passing trade.
The buildings sit at the heart of the site preserving the existing planted boundaries and where possible the existing vegetation has been retained and re-enforced adding to the bucolic atmosphere composed around the series of created ponds and landscaped areas. The bulk of the parking was consciously placed underground to minimise the projects footprint and the coinciding necessary hard surface treatments whilst maximising the existing panoramic view seen of the site from the residents living up on the hilltops.
The main principal behind the conception of the project was to create an object, which opposed and refuted the brutal dichotomy between architecture and nature, by merging and mirroring the universe between vegetation and the built environment in order to create a continuity of landscapes and spaces bathed in greenery reaching right into the heart of the buildings.
The workshop spaces lengthen their extracted volumes on a north south axe, above the natural embankments and folds of the ground scape. The void between the volumetric outline of the ‘industrial sheds’ and their carcass allows daylight to flood the workshop spaces and their architectural form creates a rhythmic journey along this axe.
The internal organisation has been largely colonised by a green living, breathing stem, which is central to all circulation, meetings and exchanges. This planted lifeline penetrates into the heart of the project carpeting the internal spaces with vegetation. It starts out at the entrance feeding the office and public spaces leading to an internal covered courtyard witness to the hub of daily activity.
Suspended walkways hang over internal gardens servicing in turn workshops and classrooms. The planted heart serves as a refuge during the day from workshop noise and the daily hustle and bustle and invites one on an architectural journey created by changing volumes, a network of walkways and garden spaces.
‘The written architecture echoes colonising vegetation, through the bountiful manipulation of rhythms and transparencies. An invitation to embark on an architectural journey…’