Lons-Le-Saunier (France) public library and cinemas, “Centre Culturel des Cordeliers”, by du Besset-Lyon architectes, has been nominated for the Mies van der Rohe Award 2015. It is not the first time for the Paris based firm, established by Pierre du Besset and Dominique Lyon in 1988, they were nominated in 2003 for their Multimedia Library in Troyes,France.
“Centre Culturel des Cordeliers” was also nominated for the 2013 BigMat International Architecture Awards, being one of the French National BigMat Award finalists.
The building is a perfect example of intervention in the old city fabric that does not deny the existing contradictions. It doesn´t try to impose a geometric order on the preexisting traces. The proposal operate in the same way the ancient city did, by the addition of new elements and negotiation with the environment. The cultural center, with its curved facade, qualifies the interstitial space between the church, the prison wall and small Hotel de Balay exempt building.
The building takes advantage of the new pedestrian connection that is created behind the apse of the church to locate its main entrance, from where the unitary space of the building can be perceived, a expanding space as the building grows in width. The cultural centet is integrated with its neighbors in some constructive aspects like the choice of material and, conceptually, being a unitary, single object (such as the Hotel and the church). This unit is achieved by abstracting facade holes, hexagons drawing a regular grid.
Inside it is organized simply, divided into two bodies, one in the back that is physically touching its urban limits, hosting the double height of cinemas, and the three-storey curved body which responds to the city as organic idea.
Memory from the architects:
The existing buildings, the church, Hotel de Balay and the wall of the prison, form an impressive urban setting made up of simple lines, great mineral surfaces and imposing masses. Unfortunately, the relationship that these three constructions maintain cannot be experienced from the street. Obviously, a fourth element is needed on the northern side to complete the urban structure.
The missing element is the library/cinemas. The new building is courteous enough to curve itself in order to spare a public place that opens on the street. An urban breather is created, which is welcome in a very densely built context. Like its neighbours, the lines of the new building are simple, its material is mineral (concrete) and its presence is stated without superfluous arrangements of volumes and materials.
It draws its strength and its strangeness from the fact that it maintains an active relationship with its neighbours. Thus, the curvature of its southern façade provides a direct response to the large slope of the slate-covered roof of the church; the curve of its plan constitutes a natural connection between Cordeliers street, the new central place and the back of the church. Rrespectful of its environment, the new building is also keen to assert its unique presence. Its design is regulated by a combination of curved lines, giving it the appearance of an autonomous object. Placed in front of one of its frontages, one captures the system by which it is regulated, understanding that it applies to the unit and perceiving the whole. The architectural expression of the exterior is found inside. From the entrance, one perceives the entire interior volume.The interior is cleanly organized, with different functions distributed on three levels plus a basement for cinemas.
Project title: Lons-le-Saunier Cultural Centre
Location: Lons-le-Saunier. France
Office: du Besset – Lyon architectes
Authors: Pierre du Besset, architect, Dominique Lyon, architect
Collaborators: Anne Tellier, architect, team leader, Véronique Ratel, architect, Khephren, engineering, structure, Espace temps, fluids engineering, JC Drauart, economist, Franck Boutte, HQE consultant
Type of work: Public
Photographs: Philippe Ruault