Sticky Fingers

A social, cultural and sports centre in Saint-Rambert, Lyon, France
“Like a glove”

The fact that this project takes its name from a celebrated rock music album is not just a musical allusion, but a direct reference to its form. In the apparent simplicity of three elongated wooden structures on a plinth, this social, cultural and sports centre gave rise to multiple complexities both in its construction and its functions. With an area of more than 2,000 m2, it has a crèche, a dojo, rooms for music, art and computing, facilities for young people and a social centre. It is intended for use by people of all ages, in a subtle blend of reciprocity and intimacy.

Apart from its different roles and uses, the building occupies a very particular setting, as a point of articulation in a diversified urban fabric. Integrated into a steep slope, it introduces the landscape and the plant life to new continuities, with a sense of effortless lightness.

The Saint-Rambert district is situated in the north-east corner of Lyon’s 9th arrondissement, next to the residential Monts d’Or. Two concomitant phenomena characterize the area in which Sticky Fingers is located. To begin with, there is its heterogeneous style of urbanisation, mostly comprised of housing, which follows on from 19th century estates, 1960s blocks and more recent developments. Then there is its steep slope, which necessitated the provision of retaining walls, as has often been the case in the locality. Luxuriant vegetation accompanies this recently colonized swathe of “countryside”.

As the property of the Société d’Aménagement et de Construction de la Ville de Lyon (SACVL), which was also the commissioning authority, the building is part of a larger urban renewal operation designed by Thierry Roche and the landscaping company Hors Champs. Five buildings were demolished to make way for it.

The building is located within a bend in the road, which gives it a high degree of visibility from all sides.

The architects wanted the architectural character of the project to be as light as possible – low and discreet, fitting in with the slope rather than adding to an impression of artificial platforms created for the purpose of massive urbanisation. Set on one such platform, it takes the place of a building that was demolished to make way for it. Between large bourgeois properties and smaller homes, the centre respects the urban scale of the area, rebalancing the forces at play and setting up relations of “neighbourliness”.

On the eastern side of the site there is a set of steps leading up to a small wood. It links the upper and lower parts of the district, traversing the project’s broad terraces.

The vegetation on this recently-urbanised project is luxuriant, including some fine old trees with which the building harmonises. It is infused and inspired by nature in the way its successive strata espouse the hillside, but also in the materials used, and the overall enhancement of the landscape.

With its “evanescent” architecture, the way it is adapted to the slope (including the incorporation of the larger spaces into the hill), its respect for the different views and the linkages it makes, the surrounding landscape is fully taken into account. The choice of materials – concrete and wood – derives from an objective of integration. The concrete echoes the neighbouring stone walls, and the wood is the most “nature-friendly” of materials. Over time, the weatherboarding will take on a greyish tone, and will blend in more closely with its surroundings.

Maintaining and developing the existing properties of the site, and setting up continuities in the vegetation, were primary design objectives. The roof has been planted out in a way that will gradually give the building a strong green note. And the wood to the east of the steps is being enlarged, with the plantation of more trees belonging to the already-existing varieties.

The building is something of an iceberg, in that only a part of it is actually visible. The overriding ambition was to harmonise with the slope and respect the environment, which meant burying the large spaces that were intended for the different activities, so that small volumes in wood are all that emerge. Natural light comes in through large, open patios. In this logic of maximal concealment, the northern part of the site is an embankment covered with vegetation.

The plinth is in dark-coloured concrete that matches the neighbouring walls. It plays on the contrast with the three light wooden structures and their refined horizontal forms.

The project is anchored in the steps that run along its eastern side and embrace the slope, which is 11 metres high, while the different pathways between the public space and the new building create shared intermediate spaces for other utilisations. There is a multipurpose space that looks out onto a large south-facing terrace, and the rooms intended for music and art also have discreet views over the steps and the wood on the eastern side.

The roof is an important aspect of the building, being integrated into the slope and visible from most angles. The covering of the three wooden units, like the facades, is in larch, and it conceals the technical equipment installed on the roof, in contrast with the greenery.

Particular care was taken in the treatment of the interior, with its large variety of ambiances. A deliberately neutral colour code was adopted for the floors and walls, unlike the crèche and the atrium. Red was chosen for the older children, green for the younger ones. The result is a cheerful, stimulating atmosphere. The furniture for the crèche was entirely designed by the architects themselves to be ergonomically suitable for children.

Acoustics is always an important feature of a building frequented by large numbers of people, and that of the music room was given particular attention. A double concrete slab with a soundproofing layer in the middle prevents the transmission of sound, and produces the absorbent effect of a “box within a box”.

The building is a social amenity in terms of both its programme, the fundamental choices that have been made, and the relationship with the surrounding space. It is a neighbourhood centre that provides a range of social activities, along with cultural and sports facilities for young people. There is the crèche, the dojo, the multipurpose space, the activities room, the dance studio, rooms for music and art, and an administrative section. It has replaced the youth club and social centre that previously served the district.

The idea of juxtaposing programmes rather than separating them led to certain complexities with regard to the management of flows, views, entrances and exchanges. In the end, this juxtaposition proved synergetic, while also providing spaces for everyone concerned. The aim was to bring the different groups together, and to organise activities at different times, so that the building would function throughout the day as a unifying, vital force across an entire residential area.

But it is also through its siting, and its architectural and urbanistic character, that the project expresses a social stance. It is open to its users, and to the local people in general, but also to its environment. It creates links and potentialities, while opening up perspectives with respect, discretion and taste.

Media

8 photos and 5 drawings

Building Activity

  • Petya Sash
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