Ordered by the City of Dunkerque, the new media library moves in the Beaux-Arts Museum with its wide array of innovative cultural features including a café, a library, a cultural shop, an auditorium and an exhibit hall. On top of the extensive restructuring works done on the emblematic building, architect firm D’HOUNDT+BAJART and associates, along with the B!B, have conducted an ambitious architectural project rolling out a sensory landscape contrasting with consensual conceptions.
Awaken the potential
The former museum originates from a great architectural ambition born under the Reconstruction era: simple yet monumental volumes, blank white marble walls, a pagoda style entrance making a direct reference to Oscar Niemeyer and the international style.
Our first action was to reactivate the building's significant potential. The annexes built over time around the main building were demolished to free up the main volume. The white marble regained its original radiance and discreet stripes even appeared alternating mat and glossy tones. Large openings were made on the walls to let natural daylight enter deep into the building.
On the Place du Théâtre, the new entrance, sheltered by a canopy, faces the Bateau Feu Theater. A panoramic bay opens up on the first floor flooding the exhibition hall with light. On the Place du Général de Gaulle, behind a vegetal screen of tall gramineae, the volume of the former entrance under the pagoda roof is closed by glass walls and hosts the music pavilion. Facing the garden, large bays offer a pleasant view and the café leads to an outdoor terrace. On the south face, the auditorium's separate entrance adjoins the beautiful original stairway with its open work cylindrical staircase.
A media library and more
The new media library program comes from the population's demand to create a library which does not look like a library. The idea was to break the codes, to make access easier and to make the library an everyday facility.
To make the building accessible, visitors enter via the café: a casual environment that popularizes the concept of the library. From the moment they step into the building, visitors can enjoy the bright open space in a glance. Long sets of benches invite visitors to walk along the space. They have multiple purposes: sit down to read, have a break during a study session, draw, gaze at the park, wait for someone or just go upstairs.
The tribute to the original building
Inherited from the post war era, the building's original structure results from a radical and conquering push. It imposed strict requirements in terms of its reshaping which quality necessarily required craftsmanship and know how that are becoming scarce. Plaster ceilings with sensuous curves, wood shelves and bookcases, padded alcoves built in the walls and part of the auditorium... As many specific solutions tailored on location to match architectural elements still present in the original building. For instance, the shelving work bears the outdoor staircase's screen wall pattern. A way to mix the past and the present while remaining faithful to the spirit of the original building.
Using craftsmanship and tailored solutions was also necessary to create a continuous space where the eyes can wander from floor to ceiling and follow the curves of the structure. Imagination meets no obstacle.
The indoor architecture has been designed as a consistent whole made up of many destinations to be discovered. Within a single indoor landscape, we have implemented diverse layouts meant to encourage the media library visitors' various attitudes. Fully abandon yourself in reading. Flip through magazines while chatting with friends. Write note frenetically before an exam. Nestle in an alcove to watch a film. Breeze through a book nonchalantly while eying around open to new encounters. Reflect upon a quote seen in the garden or on the ceiling. Focus, isolate, gaze observe, socialize, exchange, dream. There is an ambiance for each and every of those situations.
This continuous floor is a manifest
The floor is exactly as it was imagined for the project, with its wide-scale print carpeting. Eluding the industrial constraint presented like an offer is no simple thing. Standard size panels. Easy assembly. Pre printed patterns. Easy-to-match colors. How could we have evoked a great landscape with a tiny repetitive pattern? From distance, we would only have been able to perceive an undefined color, at best the lines from the grid.
Maybe that is what the tiny white crosses randomly scattered across the carpet are for. Marks reminding us what we have escaped. What we fight against with this carpet and the whole project which many details required specific solutions. Getting out of the frame is a prowess.
The print on this carpet, what gives this classic material a whole new status, is not a pattern. It is a drawing which stretches across the whole surface area of the building in an unlikely chiaroscuro of green and pink. The kind of oddity you see only in nature nature – indeed, cultures in strips, squares or terraces sometimes bear pink shades. Somewhere between Holland and Vietnam.
A thirst for travel
With its indoor layout, the media library expresses the work done around sensations, freedom and a will to resist standards. Far from being a clinical universe, formalism is pushed around with the landscape carpet and the alcoves padded with raspberry red faux leather. For the Dunkerque media library, we sought specific radiance of the colors, brightness, the sensation of silence made possible by the carpet and plaster ceiling acoustic quality... As many intangible elements yet chosen to trigger desires on the feel-good side of things. This is also the reason why people travel: experience physically unique buildings which only exist in one place.