Multiple use is the underlying design concept behind the Metz Congrès Robert Schuman in the north-eastern French city. Not only catering for a wide range of regional, national and international scale meetings and conventions with a series of flexible, different size environments, the complex is also a
trade-show venue and cultural center. This multipurpose center is well placed in a city like Metz whose location on the French border a stone’s throw from Belgium, Luxemburg and Germany makes it ideal as a prime European hub for a wide range of cultural and commercial events - an ambition already clearly announced with the Centre Pompidou-Metz by Shigeru Ban and Jean de Gastines inaugurated in 2010.
The Metz Congrès Robert Schuman’s ambitious functional program is articulated in a striking architectural project designed to blend with and consolidate the relationship between the other distinctive architectural features of the old city and the wider urban area now undergoing radical transformation, like the new Quartier de l’Amphithéâtre with its mixed Zone d’Aménagement Concerté (joint develepment zone). One side of the convention center opens out directly on to the railway station serving the TGV high-speed trains; the other allows views over to the Centre Pompidou-Metz directly opposite, as well as to the rest of the city. Both the direct link with the railway station and city transport system and the building’s effortless insertion into its contemporary urban landscape are mediated by a series of broad tree-planted open public spaces.
The relatively long narrow plot running parallel to the station and railway line determined the program’s longitudinal plan. Length has been cleverly used to design articulated façades that mix solidity and transparency and create a luminous, easy-to-access floor plan with views onto the city outside. The main entrance is on the north/northeast side. The plaza directly in front - a sort of secular church square - invites people in. The imposing glazed façade filters diffused natural light into the huge ground floor atrium and
trade-show area on the floor above. A covered terrace on the top floor breaks the vertical continuity of this glazed façade, creating a slight step back under the roof with sweeping views over to the Centre Pompidou-Metz. This top floor is occupied by some
16 different size meeting and conference rooms. A secondary entrance on the long east elevation leads to the central staircase and elevators. Almost half of the ground floor is occupied by logistics services, storage, and technical workshops.
The long façades are a rhythmic sequence of solids and voids - luminosity and matter. Even the cladding in local Jaumont limestone seems to emit light. A major characteristic of historic Metz, especially its imposing Gothic cathedral, the stone owes its golden-yellow color to the presence of iron oxide. Despite their imposing mass, the elegantly proportioned east and west façades appear a finely woven surface. A regular sequence of projecting prism-shaped volumes - one side in stone, the other glazed - lend a sense of slender verticality to the elevations. Inside, the alternating pattern of solids and voids produces changing patterns of dappled light in the distribution corridor running along the east façade while the projecting elements offer interesting views across the city. Indeed, the views have become a major public attraction for visitors.
Spatial distribution is simple and clear. The building consists fundamentally of two large blocks: the exhibition, trade show and meeting spaces on the north side, and a south section with ground floor service facilities and the convention auditorium, a 1,200-seat hall (which can become 600 or 800 seats as required), with a large stage, balconies and simultaneous translation booths. The proximity of the railway station demanded careful acoustic measures. As a result, the auditorium is a separate structural box preventing the propagation of vibrations and noise from outside.
Location: Metz, France - Client: Metz Métropole Moselle Congrès (M3Congrès) - Shareholders:
Ville de Metz and Metz Métropole - Site Area: 6,400 m² - Building Area: 15,300 m² - Architect:
Wilmotte & Associés - Completion Date: 2018 - Main Contractor: Eiffage Construction Lorrain
Structural, Accessibility, Environment: Artelia - Scenography: Scène - Acoustics: Peutz & Associés - Landscape: Neveux-Rouyer - Signage: ENT Design - Public Service Management: GL Events
Façade Systems: Schüco
Plaster Ceilings and Acoustic Paneling: Knauf
Text by Francesco Pagliari
Photography by Luc Boegly
Portrait image by Jean Grisoni
All images courtesy of Wilmotte & Associés