The city of Grasse in the south of France is particularly touching because of its urban characteristics: narrow streets, freshness, colours, relationship to the sky, vaulted passages, steep slopes... The new Charles Nègre media library is based on an architectural approach that is very attentive to the context and fits in well with the town's heritage. It gives the site a charming atmosphere but also provokes feelings of pleasant surprise and emotion. The media library is inspired by the unique character of the urban structure and plays with the tensions and proximities between the buildings. The project also takes up the subtle material relationships between the public buildings and the urban fabric and uses, with a modern vision, some of the traditional language and materials. As a counterpoint to this density, the building offers visual and scenic openings to the neighbourhood and to the distance. The building thus becomes a place from which to contemplate the city. A tower/ belvedere on the street allows a direct view towards the house of the great Grasse artist Charles Nègre (1820-1880), while the terrace on the top level highlights a frontal view of the sea and another framing leads towards the tower of the Cathedral Notre Dame du Puy. The media library is truly designed as a space that is permeable to light, while preserving the interior coolness. Its architecture is designed to filter the sun during the day and restore a lace of light in the evening. The dual appearance during the day and at night is one of the major qualities of the site. This luminous presence will be gentle, discreet and without excessive glare. The greatest attention is paid to the quality of the lighting inside. The reading areas receive subdued daylight, softened by the fluted white concrete columns that surround the building. These columns protect the recessed glass façade from direct sunlight. The sunlight also penetrates directly into the interior through a skylight that crosses the two levels of reading rooms to illuminate the reception area. This solution becomes reversible in the evening so that the building gently illuminates the public space like a lantern. The building is a light sponge during the day and becomes an urban photophore in the evening. The project responds to the paradox of being both visible through the strength and quality of its presence, and discreet in its volumes and materials. The activities of the media library are revealed without being totally displayed to the public. It is an urban project as a large covered public space that improves pedestrian relations within the neighbourhood. The media library, located in the heart of the city centre, is not conceived as an isolated monument: it is intended to be a real catalyst for a cultural life on the scale of the entire city. Here, more than an integration, the project proposes a poetic of the situation.
A freelance architect since 2000, he studied at the École Nationale Supérieure d'Architecture de Marseille and at the EPFL in Switzerland. He was awarded the « Nouveaux Albums des Jeunes Architectures » prize in 2004 by the Ministry of Culture and Communication before creating and co-managing the Atelier Fernandez & Serres sarl from 2006 until March 2019. He was awarded the European 40 UNDER 40 prize in 2011. He is nominated for the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture Mies van der Rohe Award in 2013.
Laurent Beaudouin founded his studio in 1980. He spent 1983 at the Cooper Union School in New York where he followed the work of John Hejduk as part of the Villa Médicis. In 1981, he built a corner building in Nancy that betrays the influence of Alvaro Siza. The projects carried out from 1987 onwards with his wife Emmanuelle are largely focused on interventions in old sites, developing the idea of a presence of modernity in the historic city.
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