'BELAROIA': OCCITAN FOR JEWEL
The challenges of the project
This is an important project for the City of Montpellier and its development agency, the SERM, as it holds a strategic position between the city's hyper-centre, characterised by its escutcheon form in plan, and new surrounding districts that have appeared in succession.
Its particular position is in fact on the prow of the Nouveau Saint-Roch development zone, and the first of the zone's projects to be completed. To characterise this zone, the city highlighted the importance of a diversity of programmes, which our team interpreted as a hybrid project, interweaving two hotels, apartments, a seminar venue and an independent restaurant.
The site – the context
The site is right opposite Montpellier's central Gare Saint Roch train station, and the BELAROIA is the first building you see as you come out of the station. The north terraces of the station overlook the project.
The small site led us to stack up the functions, literally one on top of another, sharing some of the vertical circulation between different elements of the programme.
The complex triangular form of the site led us to design a continuous volume with a succession of folds that unfurl along the north and the east facades, topped by a wide bridge along the south facade.
At the middle of these folds is set a large hollow volume, orientated to the south and sheltered by the bridge that overhangs it. This magnificent conch shell-like form is an extra element, a meeting place for all the users of the different programmes, a café with a terrace looking out over the train station, which faces us.
A project designed around public space, and hollows rather than solids
In this particular project, the almost immediate aim was to create, to orchestrate, and to provide an external space for all the building's users, from each of the different programmes but also from the entire neighbourhood: a neighbourhood characterised by the station and its thoroughfare, by the nearby historic city centre, and by the future programmes that will gradually appear within the development zone.
Providing this majestic communal space was a way of giving a magnificent 'shared' urban room in the very first building constructed in the development zone, a way of positioning the level of engagement and ambition of this new neighbourhood.
Stretching and densifying a city does not happen without a trade-off, without providing, in compensation for space taken, new public places that constitute landmarks, places for meeting and amenities.
Our urban living room is the first room of the project, a great unifying void around which all our solids will wrap, sitting on a podium that houses all the entrances, it is then surrounded by the two hotels and overlooked by the apartments which crown it. It becomes a sort of urban stage, framed by animated wings (the hotel rooms): it is the starting point and the heart of the whole project.
Around this void the solids are successively distributed on the site, successively defining the various surfaces of the void, including that of its roof, to create a half-indoor, half-outdoor space protected from the wind and rain, an open stage fanning out on the southern side, addressing the midday sun and the station.
The programme is both simple and rich: the breakfast room of the 4-star hotel, a place for eating at any time of day and a fantastic bar in the evening, lit up by the giant luminous letters of B E L A R O I A.
Around our 'urban stage', layers of different programmes
The ground floor of the project tucks in along the retaining wall of the Pont de Sète road bridge and aligns with the two other edges of the site. It is consequently partially below ground and enclosed along the bridge side, more generously open on the east and south sides, where it incorporates the entrances for each programme. Consequently, from north to south are the following:
- On the north, the Campanile Hotel entrance and the entrance to the underground car park,
- On the east, the Golden Tulip Hotel entrance and one of the two entrances to the restaurant,
- On the south, the main entrance to the restaurant and the entrance to the apartments.
The two hotels:
The first floor has a barely reduced perimeter, which, above the entrances to each programme, creates a base of communal spaces: a seminar venue with six meeting rooms, the bar with its magnificent terrace – where breakfasts are also served, and a spa and wellbeing centre.
Subsequently the two hotels are found on levels 2 to 7. They are integrated one after the other into a folded continuum, the first fold housing the 82 rooms of the Campanile to the north, the second the 105 rooms of the Golden Tulip. The latter are complemented by several suites over the next 4 floors, some of which are split-level.
In order to mutualise some of the vertical circulation, notably in case of fire, the circulation of the two hotels is inter-connecting in the middle in order to use the same fire escape. Everything in this project has been studied carefully in order to minimise the impact of each constraint, mutualising spaces and services, down to circulation and fire escapes. The project is a three-dimensional puzzle, where each square metre is precious, cleverly used and always assigned to prioritise quality spaces.
Manuelle Gautrand was born on July 14, 1961 in Marseille (France). She obtained her graduate diploma in Architecture in 1985. She founded her office MANUELLE GAUTRAND ARCHITECTURE in 1991 and rapidly gained international public renown. She lives and works in Paris since 1994.
Since its creation in 1991, the agency has carried out numerous buildings for large public and private clients, in France and abroad, in fields as diverse as cultural facilities, offices, housing, hotels, retails and leisure facilities. Some famous projects are the “Gaité Lyrique” former theater transformation in Paris, the “LaM” Museum of Modern and Oustider Art in Lille, the “Cité des Affaires” in Saint-Etienne.
Refusing to lock in an architectural style or type of program, Manuelle Gautrand claims "the luxury of being unaccustomed" in her architectural production and seeks to re-enchant our environment.