Located Place de la République, the Galeries Lafayette building has undergone a real transformation, symbol of the city center’s metamorphosis in Metz and realized by architect Manuelle Gautrand.
The Galeries Lafayette have been a vector of the city’s image, contributing to its touristic and commercial dynamic and successively reflecting its different times.
Built in the 1980’s, the building had to evolve in order to adapt to the new values of the Galeries Lafayette 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 identity. In order to transform the image of this building, visible from the other side of the square, and to turn it into a landmark for passers-by, the architect decided to preserve the stone façade, with interesting classical ornamental features and to concentrate on its lower part, where the public circulates.
With the objective to reconnect with the history of the Galeries Lafayette, Manuelle Gautrand chose to create a canopy as a reference to the exceptional glass walls 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 façades of the building like an origami, for a total length of 120 meters. To echo the stone, the architect chose a red coloured canopy which width varies from 2.30 meters to 5.30 meters, using a cantilever 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 mm 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 conception 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 chiselled manner.
The large folding of this canopy, which gives more height and breathing to the lower facades, allows to balance the general proportions of the building. The stone is now displayed in more reasonable proportions. The more the glass folds approach the angle of the building, the more they expand, as if they were trying to reach passers-by on the Republic Square. The stone is now seen through the glass filter, becoming the setting of a new modernity.
The building now exists on two scales: that of the square, offering a landmark from afar, and that of the passers-by, offering visible and generous entrance gates. The whole lower part of the building, situated under the canopy, is reconstructed in glass alternating between large vitrines and entrance gates. The vertical windows are screenprinted with a white pointillism pattern 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 multiply the red colour 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 façades of the Galeries Lafayette are made of a matt stone, the lower façades reflect the golden stones of the surrounding buildings.
A project of lighting and illumination of the façade was specifically developed with the light conception agency ON. At night, the light design reinforces the red colour of the canopy that assures its nocturnal presence in the landscape of Metz and goes far beyond a simple “staging”.
The light continues the architectural gesture when the night falls. Completely intertwined with the structure, it offers new interpretations of it: it shows the opalescence of the suspended glass under different angles; it underlines the folds that are reflected in the lower windows, emphasizing the effect of a suspended veil; it seems to make the canopy breathe in a slow beat, even though this quietness is at times disturbed by a vibration of the light that comes to deconstruct the original drawing of the canopy.
The technology used is inspired from that of the neon that has been representative, for many years, of the “commercial and advertising nights” in large cities and metropolis. The neon celebrated its centenary in 2010. About 500 meters of electroluminescent tube were installed on the canopy. A specific colouring has made it possible to find a perfect combination 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 consumption is completely controlled.
Manuelle Gautrand Architecture
Location: Metz, France
Client: Citynove for the Galeries Lafayette Group
Architects: Manuelle Gautrand Architecture
Contractors: Viry Acml - Fayat Group, Eiffage Energie, Feerick
Structural and Glass: Tess
Light Conception Agency: On
Mne: Ote Ingenierie
Fire and Security: Socotec
Photography: © Vincent Fillon