￼Located Place de la République, the Galeries Lafayett︎e building has undergone a real transforma︎tion, symbol of the city center’s metamorphosis in Metz and realized by architect Manuelle Gautrand. Reflecti︎ng the economic and social changes of the 19th century, the Department Stores, through their commercial and architectural boldness, are a part of the history of a city.
Built in the 1980’s, the building – a true landmark in Metz – had to evolve in order to adapt to the new values of the Galeries Lafaye︎tte and to become a reference, both on the commercial and on the architectural level. Singular and remarkable element in the urban landscape of the city, the architect has focused on this urban scale of the building and referred to the symbolic aspect of Department Stores to give it a new image and iden︎tity.
Clothed in a stone facade, rela︎tively cold and without any window or openings- except in its lower part – the exis︎ting building had entrances and vitrines that were not very generous. In order to transform the image of this building, visible from the other side of the square and to turn it into a signal or landmark for passersby, the architect decided to preserve the stone façade, with interesti︎ng classical ornamental features and to concentrate on its lower part, space where the public circulates.
With the objecti︎ve to reconnect with the history of the Galeries Lafayett︎e, Manuelle Gautrand chose to create a canopy as a reference to the excep︎onal glassworks that were built in the early 20th century. The project has been organized around this overhanging façade that revisits in a contemporary manner a strong symbol of the Department Stores.
In a large ethereal movement of pleated glass, the canopy runs along the three facades of the building, on a total length of 120 meters. To echo the stone that it enhances and to refer to the Galeries Lafaye︎e, the architect chose a red colored canopy which width varies from 2.30 meters to 5.30 meters, using a can︎lever of 7.40 meters at the angle of the building; the height from the
ground varies from 3.50 meters at its lowest point, to 11 meters at its highest.
Made of two tempered and laminated glass, in between which are enclosed four layers of red film – necessary to obtain the intensity of red desired – the canopy, 22 millimeters thick overall, finds a rhythm through a series of folds that are assembled with one another in a large wave-like movement. This long flight of glass starts at one side of the store, on Winston Churchill Street, then rises gradually up to the angle and main entrances of the building, to lower down along Clercs Street, and rise up again when approaching the following entrance on Poncelet Street. Technical achievement, the concep︎tion of the canopy was realized by TESS Ingénierie. The canopy is held by a metal structure made of triangular brackets that accompany each fold on its length and diagonal, in an almost chiseled manner.
The building now exists on two scales: that of the square, offering a landmark from afar, and that of the passersby, offering now visible and generous entrance gates. The whole lower part of the building, situated under the canopy, is reconstructed in glass alterna︎ting between large vitrines and entrance gates.
The ver︎cal windows are screen- printed with a white poin︎tillism pa︎ttern that comes to highlight them a delicate frame. In this way, they are displayed next to each other along the facades, like frames or pictures that are exposed to the public on the square
gates. The whole lower part of the building, situated under the canopy, is reconstructed in glass alterna︎ting between large vitrines and entrance gates.
￼The ver︎cal windows are screen- printed with a white poin︎tillism pa︎ttern that comes to highlight them a delicate frame. In this way, they are displayed next to each other along the facades, like frames or pictures that are exposed to the public on the square.
The architect wanted the windows to reflect and mul︎tiply the red color of the canopy, so as to give the impression that the canopy would extend endlessly into the lower façade of the building. These windows also reflect the surroundings made of Jaumont stone. Whereas the upper facades of the Galeries Lafaye︎e are made of a ma︎ stone, the lower facades reflect the golden stones of the surrounding buildings.
A project of ligh︎tning and illumina︎tion of the façade was specifically developed with the light concep︎tion agency ON. At night, the light design reinforces the red color of the canopy that assures its nocturnal presence in the landscape of Metz and goes far beyond a simple “staging”.
The technology used is inspired from that of the neon that has been representa︎tive, for many years, of the “commercial and adverti︎sing nights” in large ci︎ties and metropolis. The neon celebrated its centenary in 2010. About 500 meters of electroluminescent tube were installed on the canopy. A specific coloring has made it possible to find a perfect combina︎on between the shade of the glass and that of the neon. Equipped with transformers and used at slightly under 30% of their capacity, the energy consump︎tion is completely controlled.