A pair of former warehouses topped with saw-toothed roofs have been transformed into a school for fine arts by Franklin Azzi Architecture, in the French city of Nantes. The Nantes Saint-Nazaire Higher School of Fine Arts, which is shortlisted in the Civic and Cultural Building category of the 2018 Dezeen Awards, provides facilities for 500 students within the two converted warehouses.
Franklin Azzi Architecture transformed of the site to suit its new purpose, as well as designing the surrounding public realm to create new pedestrian streets, passageways and an arts esplanade. The project is part of a larger masterplan for the rejuvenation of a former industrial site in the city’s Île de Nantes district, which the architect is overseeing. Overall, 26,000 square metres of warehouses will be transformed into a new cultural campus, which will see the school joined by Nantes University, offices for creative start ups, artists’ workshops and a catering facility.
The architects chose to retain only the steel framework of the original buildings, which allowed the internal spaces to be opened up and re-housed beneath the roof structure. The saw-tooth profile of the polycarbonate roof retains the shape of the original sheds. At one end, the structure forms a canopy sheltering an open-air public space that functions as an esplanade welcoming people into the Higher School of Fine Arts.
The building’s enormous frame separates the internal spaces into two distinct halves, which are arranged along either side of a central street. The polycarbonate shell that wraps around the volumes stops four metres above the ground, and the recessed sections below incorporate windows that provide views into and out from the various spaces. “The warehouses have been opened, reorganised, and reconnected,” explained Franklin Azzi. “They unveil the programmes they contain, thus contributing to the urban cohesion and reevaluating the human scale.” “Committed to rejecting all attempts of architectural gesticulation, this solution not only favours an economy of means but also focuses on freeing spaces that will become expression areas with great flexibility for the students and the neighbourhood life.”
The north and south elevations feature an alternating sequence of opaque and transparent surfaces that respond to the lighting and privacy requirements of the rooms inside. Amenities are distributed across a range of nested volumes along both sides of the central corridor. These self-supporting structures are entirely independent of the facades and the existing framework, allowing them to also form an insulating internal shell. The esplanade at the western end of the building provides access to public spaces including an entrance hall, exhibition space, library and computer room. At every level, the various passages and walkways that connect the two volumes above the central street provide breakout spaces that function as an extension of the classrooms where informal gatherings can occur. Classrooms, workshops and auditoriums are located on the first floor, with administrative offices on the second floor. These levels are restricted to students and staff.
Representative architects: Franklin Azzi Architecture
Execution architects: ACS
Building economics: 12ECO
Environmental engineering: Tribu Ingénierie
Acoustic engineering: Lamoureux Acoustique
Facade engineering: Tess
General engineering: Setec Bâtiment
Landscape architects: Bureau Bas Smets
Technical inspectors: Dekra
Photograph: Luc Boegly