The City of Angers has launched an ambitious economic and commercial project at the Buisson commercial zone. This zone covers 53 hectares, including more than 200,000 sqm reserved for the Atoll project.
Behind the call for tender is the company SARA (for the development of the region of Angers), which was granted concession to develop the commercial zone, to be assisted by Angers Loire Développement and the company Sites et Commerces.
The aim is to design a gateway to the town adapted to the scale of the region, and provide an architectural alternative to standard shopping centres. Located on the edge of the town of Beaucouzé, on a largely agricultural site, the Atoll is a slightly irregular ellipse shape.
The layout and construction of the project reflect the existing landscape by adapting the nature of the land.
The project offers a net surface area of 91,000 sq.m.
The four poles, separated by four corridors, rise up like four great entry porches. The structure is covered with a white aluminium net, which is perforated and backlit.
The shops of the Atoll are arranged in a dynamic layout, while the carpark blends into the garden.
The building's enveloppe, 8-12m from the main structure, provides a protected area behind the shops for deliveries, away from the customer's view at the centre of the Atoll, and provides a clear passage for security services.
The outer cover runs from the inside out, following the access porches up to the roof to form an awning covering part of the promenade. On the inside, the awning rises up over a glass wall offering views of the various shop fronts. The shop front can be seen clearly above and below the awning.
Smaller constructions, designed like smooth white concrete pebbles, punctuate the visitors' promenade, creating more intimate areas in the style of a traditional street of shops.
At the centre of the Atoll lie wooden-clad buildings sheltered by trees house restaurants, conveniences, a first-aid unit etc.
The height of the building is limited to just 12 meters.
The shiny, mother-of-pearl white façade provides the building with unity, featuring a heat-lacquered finishing that reflects the light and surrounding landscapes.
The enveloppe encloses and secures the building, and can be divided as follows:
- from the ground up to around 3m high, the perforations are small in diameter in order to conceal views from outside
- from 3-12m high, the perforations are shaped as diamonds of varying sizes. The rounded shape of the façade provides a subtle effect based on natural light
- above the height of 12m, the façade curves horizontally and opens up, in compliance with security restrictions in case of fire.
The façade complies with environnemental performance requirements, while limiting the visual pollution from deliveries and the compaction of waste.
The Atoll features 60,000 sq.m. of greenery in and around the centre. These areas are planted with 580 trees and more than 15,000 bushes.
The trees are mainly maples (Acer palmatum, Acer ginnala, Acer saccharinum), hornbeams, Scots pines, as well as oaks (Quercus robur) and weeping willows (Salix babylonica).
The landscape plays a major part in the project's design, from the outlying areas of the grounds to the inner courtyard, not to mention the building's porches, the carpark and the roof garden at the centre of the plot.
The three carpark access routes join at the centre of the Atoll around a planted ring. Around the ring, the land dips down where run-off water can be evacuated.
The HQE approach and fulfilment of the environmental quality charter guided the architectural design and techniques.
With the help of specialists in the project management team, particularly in the fields of bioclimatic design, the simulation of thermal dynamics, renewable energy and natural lighting, each of the areas of the environmental quality charter were analysed.
Special attention was paid to energy management, given that the tertiary sector is the main consumer of energy in France with nearly 40% of total consumption.
In 2009, the Atoll was awarded French certification for tertiary sector buildings (HQE®) by Certivéa.
To encourage the architectural quality and landscape aspects, several targets were qualified as "high performance": the relationship between the building and its immediate environment, the management of waste, acoustic and olfactory comfort.
Other targets were qualified as "good performance": the low environmental impact of the worksite, the management of energy and water.
The Atoll is surrounded by a line of white mother-of-pearl casing one and a half km long.
The ellipse, which curves up at the top, is entirely backlit, with colours varying from white to red, from gold to sky blue.
The evanescent effect of the light brings out the perforated pattern and creates a subtle mashrabiyya effect wich blends in with the surrounding landscape and provides a local landmark.
The inside of the casing along the promenade is also backlit with a single pure white light, allowing the shop fronts to be clearly visible.
Antonio Virga Architect and AAVP Vincent Parreira
Born in Italia in 1962, Antonio Virga graduated in 1987 from Milan Polytechnic School and created his own architectural and design agency in 1991 in Paris.
His first years as an architect are characterized by projects of urban heritage renovation and interior refurnishing in constrained sites: real estate property, head offices, showrooms, stores, private apartments are many opportunities to reinvest and sublimate spaces.
Clients are famous and demanding (Dior, Ungaro, Céline, Diesel, Benetton, Printemps, Chloé, Yves Saint-Laurent, Sergio Rossi...), the architecture is functional and communicating at the same time. Attention to details and purity of the lines are clearly stated.
At the begin of the 2000 years, his activity gets more diverse and public buildings are now a major component in the development of his agency. Student residences, youth hostels, collective housing, offices, shopping centres, equestrian centres and tourist offices become a way to redefine the concepts of comfort and aesthetic on a wider scale. Working on projects going "from teaspoon to city" (Gio Ponti), Antonio Virga's agency strengthens its refusal of specialization thanks to this diversity of programmes.