Feature - 2007-8 (SPG DesignBuildNetwork)


Cité du Design, Saint Etienne, France

Because Saint-Étienne was historically an industrial city, factories were cheek-by-jowl with public spaces on the hillside. Now Paris- and Berlin-based LIN Architects is taking that heritage and fusing it with a far-seeing plan that takes both industry and design into the future. LIN Architects, led by Finn Geipel and Giulia Andi, won a competition in 2004 to mastermind the design and construction of the Cité du Design, a new international exhibition centre built on the site of an old munitions factory in the Loire Valley city of Saint-Étienne. Construction has begun and is scheduled for completion in 2009. Network of design

Saint-Étienne is characterised by narrow streets nestled into the hillsides of the Central Massif of France, and a perpendicular orientation to the river Furan that has further restricted expansion. Yet the city prides itself on design and innovation, boasting five universities, five institutes of higher education and France's leading modern art collection outside Paris as well as an art and industry museum for its population of 400,000. It visualises itself as the core that links a wide variety of design, industry, art and business elements that face the future. So LIN Architects' plan aims to make excellent use of space and previous constructions. "Today this development offers great opportunities of regeneration. After the gradual relocation of industries to the surrounding regions, disused islands were left behind," LIN Architects said in a statement. Its slow-growing development of the old Manufacture d’Armes building and grounds has at its centre a slender 7000m2 eco-friendly communications structure, dubbed the Platine. The Platine boasts a a flexible and reactive high-tech skin that can be altered from opaque to transparent, with its triangular solar and photosynthesising panels open or closed, according to the needs of the exhibition centre. Also, the Platine is expected to save energy by being heated and cooled by water moving under the floor, powered by 120 geothermal piles 10-30m deep, 10 geothermal probes 150m deep and a well created by sealing what would be the building's crawl space. LIN's new development brings the area back into view of the city at the same time as it becomes a point from which the city -- and the world -- can be examined and understood. The place of arms will become a public square, with two gardens either side. Connecting diversity

The Platine helps connect the town to diverse programmes and exhibitions in the auditoria, restaurants, library, greenhouse and other public facilities for activities, teaching and research of the Cité du Design. "The Manufacture was a blind spot – a place erased from public awareness. It was reduced to the few elements visible from the city: Grille, Bâtiment de l’Horloge, and the two gardens on both sides of the Place d’Armes," LIN said. The Platine, next to the Bâtiment de l’Horloge . . .

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