Greater Rennes Community Hall
Greater Rennes community hall, Rennes (35), France Cities need symbols. These symbols are those of a city's guiding values. Without this property, an urban setting is not a city: in their absence, Mankind becomes disoriented in an environment without markers to pave the way to the future. The role of public architecture is to build these symbols; the activities they house are driven by these values. However, this is not currently a given. We must realise that, while the architecture of the past is most commonly regarded for its symbolic value, this becomes less obvious when contemplating that of the future. But can cities' contemporary vision go on, mainly through bias, without building symbols of those public values to which their citizens must adhere? The design of the Greater Rennes Community Hall is based on these ideas, and its architecture is deliberately symbolic. This is individually true of its plan, its volumes, and its main areas, which then come together as a whole with each of the parts contributing to form a shape. In their layout, they are united through numbers and geometry: the numbers one and three, as well as a tree-inspired morphology. One, seen first from outside The volumes are laid out along a 100-meter, interrupted line without expansion joints. The Hall comes together as a unified whole. Through its aspect, it underpins the North-South route of the Avenue Fréville and its new urban development. Three, horizontally inside Three equal parts succeed each other in a space which continues along the building's entire length. Although their purposes are different, their layout links them together to represent the democratic process. The North end : the area reserved for local officials, built around a square courtyard. The South end : the public area, built around another courtyard strictly identical to the first one Between the two : the council chamber, which seats local officials as well as citizens in a symmetrically configured amphitheatre. The citizen, the Assembly, the politician. The plan is designed like this triptyque, flattened out so as to be built on City land. A tree, vertically inside. The council chamber makes up the heart of the Hall. Above it rises and unfolds the entire system of floors and levels. A girder of substantial dimensions runs across the Council Hall from East to West to support a multi-floor bridged gallery which irrigates two wings of offices. The meeting rooms are located at the end of each wing. The council hall, whose interior is visible from the public area, is at the heart of this morphology. This area was designed to be sheltered by the tree, where Men deliberate on the future of their community. The entire construction is 100 m long, 45 m wide, and 26 m high. These are also the dimensions of its material envelope which was designed for more than perception. It has a technical raison d'être, that of providing thermal comfort to users. It is a relief façade composed of 2,800 joined oak mullions and 1,700 concrete blocks in insulated breast walls, all of which constitutes a mass of inertia and protection against thermal and solar variations. Seen from afar, the Hall's proportions are on par with the city's scale. Seen up close, there is matter, with the wealth of components which make up this physical envelope and the play of light and shadow it generates. Inside, space is shaped into a geometry clearly symbolic of a social value. © Text by Patrick Berger architect


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