New’R Multifunctional Complex - Hamonic+Masson & Associés
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New’R Multifunctional Complex

Sinuous Elegance

Hamonic+Masson & Associés

Edited By Caterina Testa - 5 May 2017

Located between the banks of the Loire and the tracks of the high-speed train station a few minutes from the center of Nantes and two hours from Paris, the new neighborhood EuroNantes Gare is one of France’s major public/private urban regeneration projects. Known as ZACs (Zone d’Aménagement Concerté), these developments have changed the face of French cities. Begun in 2004 and scheduled for completion in 2025, Nantes’ new neighborhood is designed to have a total of 2000 apartments, 200,000 sqm office and 15,000 sqm retail space, public services for some 40,000 sqm, and 12 hectares of communal land. Requiring enormous capital investment, this huge urban development has reshaped vast areas in just a few decades. Importantly, the urban plan underpinning these new quarters differs profoundly from city layouts of the past. Historic cities owe their complexity and fascination to the many different over-layers of usage and language built up down the centuries. In contrast, large neighborhoods springing up from scratch tend to have little historical or aesthetic connection with the context they are replacing. This can only be countered if urbanists, developers and architects join forces to produce quality environments for people to live in. Located on Nantes’ Mail Pablo Picasso, New’R by Hamonic + Masson is a pivotal building for the area masterplan designed by the urbanists at Atelier Ruelle, who earmarked this plot for a landmark high-rise with an open permeable ground floor that would not interrupt the circulation paths connecting the main avenue with the neighborhood behind. As well as building the requisite high-rise, Hamonic + Masson devised a huge program whose imposing volume not only relates to the surrounding neighborhood but also changes appearance depending on the point of observation. A clear landmark for the new city quarter, it connects the main avenue with the area behind, while the rooftop offers splendid views over Nantes. The building’s large footprint sets up an intricate rapport with the surrounding public space. At ground level, the large square stretching from the road and passing under the building to the other side widens out along the way to create a forecourt in front of a restaurant, a retail outlet, offices and the entrances to the residential units. The result is full permeability for pedestrians, bicycles and cars between the Mail Pablo Picasso and the rest of the neighborhood. Although designating a high-rise building for the plot, the masterplan allowed the architects considerable freedom. Harmonic + Masson chose to go to a height of 55 m but in staggered fashion. As well as blending with the surrounding buildings, this articulated series of different-height blocks with its curving wrap-around terraces creates a compact sculptural landmark. The sinuous parapets give a sculptured plasticity that brings to mind the curved lines of Niemeyer’s Copan in São Paulo or André Minangoy and Michel Marot’s Côte d’Azur Marina Baie des Anges. Like these works, the Hamonic + Masson project is part of a broader, more complex framework plan. And like in São Paulo or Cannes, the Nantes building responds to a deep need for pleasure and beauty, individuality but also a communal sense of belonging. The internal distribution circuits and the varied external spaces allow for considerable diversity and personalization within a massive collective project. 40 different types of apartment for a total of 156 dwelling units give a sense of personal identity to each inhabitant. The unique quality of each apartment is further enhanced by the building’s curving shape and external spaces that afford widely differing views over the city. At the same time, this individual “private” character goes hand in hand with collective spaces designed to foster socialization. Two terraces allow inhabitants to meet and participate in communal activities, strengthening a sense of belonging. The pedagogic purpose is clear: to raise awareness and appreciation of the surrounding city to which the inhabitants belong. Since residential buildings are some 80% of our urban fabric, the architects of communal housing have the possibility, indeed the duty, to design aesthetically pleasing buildings of good quality that give pleasure. This objective has been achieved with the New’R project.

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