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Clear and chiselled: Cour et Jardin in France by Atelier Fernandez & Serres

AR_EA 2015 Commended

Clean, even stark, when Cour et Jardin is set against a piercing blue sky it is as if its rooflines could slice through it. These rooflines are important – as the architects explain: ‘everything starts with a walk; a stroll in the city centre of Vertou with its steepness and prospects’. The project is an extension of this geography – and makes its own geography with dramatic slopes and quiet corners.

Commissioned by the Mairie of Vertou – outside Nantes in the west of France – and completed in August last year, the project is a cultural centre which houses theatre, dance and music all under the same roof, and the building is used by local associations and people of all ages from the town and its environs. There are a range of rehearsal rooms and a recording studio with professional equipment, as well as a multi-purpose room. A performance hall can accommodate an audience of 130 people seated and 500 standing. The building is used throughout the year.

Cour et Jardin France Atelier Fernandez   Serres Section AA

Section AA

‘With flair and sophistication, the building represents a place where worthwhile aims can be achieved, dreams pursued, creativity explored’

The exterior is a mélange of shades of white and cream, and the way the materials are used is crisp and precise. The external wall and the public space are in 80mm thick white travertine, while the roof is white Carea mineral composite. There is white concrete too. Together, these materials give depth and interest, and they contribute to the building’s monolithic quality – leaning against a wall and looking skywards, you could imagine a mountain, a slab of stone.

Source: S Chalmeau

Softening it all, the milky courtyard – an outdoor room with simple planting and a single tree gracing its centre – draws visitors in. Inside, there is bright space, ‘staged with the play of boxes and large framed openings onto the landscape of Vertou’. Some of the ceilings mirror the sloping roofs. Long box benches and strip floor lighting in the corridor emphasise the geometry of the space. The windows are wide and generous. Rooms within larger rooms – where you can see the space above internal ceilings – create contrasts of light and shade. There is a boxy feel, volumes within volumes – this is not a fuzzy-edged environment, nor is it a cosy one, instead it is clear and chiselled.

‘This construction creates a new welcoming public space for the city’

Cour et Jardin France Atelier Fernandez   Serres Ground floor plan

Ground floor plan

The cultural centre sits easily in its context. With flair and sophistication, the building represents a place where worthwhile aims can be achieved, dreams pursued, creativity explored. It is free of clutter, ready for purposeful activity – a calming, shared space in which to develop and thrive. As such it is particularly appealing. ‘This construction’, say the architects, ‘creates a new welcoming public space for the city.’

Cour et Jardin

Architect: Atelier Fernandez & Serres

Project team: Stéphane Fernandez, Clémence Murat

Engineers: Beterem Ingenierie; Veritas; Qualiconsult

Photographs: S Chalmeau

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