Architecture: „Experimental Buildings“, Paving and Design Ideas

(May 2011) An age-old building method with a modern twist took the French awards for building with natural stone: we are talking about diaphragm arches as implemented in roof construction. The stone blocks used in the project „Bâtiments expérimentaux“ („Experimental buildings“), as carried out by the Atelier de la Pierre d’Angle, a life-long-learning institution for stone masons, were strung up on pre-stressed wire ropes allowing construction of arches up to 20 m in diameter. The method is also suitable for earthquake-proof construction.

New, too: the shape of the elements. These were traditionally trapezoids. In the modern version, scientific discoveries were influential: two opposed sides have sin-curved surfaces and fit hand-in-glove one block in the other instead of relying on mass and gravity for stability.

The draft version has a 4 m span. The underside of the arches are convex, the tops straight, allowing for a level rooftop.

The surprising part is the versatility of the construction. Architect Professor Guiseppe Fallacaravon of the Politecnico di Bari was responsible.

Atelier de la pierre d’angle (French)

Paris’ city centre radiates with splendour and riches, not least because Baron Haussmann, who gave the metropolis its face, had a weakness for limestone. Many a train station and official building is clad in the stone mainly quarried north of Paris. It is the location ear-marked by the trade association for a heritage site in honour of traditional stone industry. The town of Saint-Maximin will be home to an information centre bearing the title La Maison de la Pierre du Sud de l’Oise, which also took the architecture award.

Transposing the theme of a house to its façade was taken on in a remarkable fashion: the construction is clad in stone giving the impression of standing face to face with an open quarry. The impression is reinforced by the fact that bore-holes are plainly visible. To lend a touch of lightness, the length of the façade alternates with glass surfaces.

Bruno Croizé of AYBC was the architect in charge. The stone is limestone from Saint Maximin provided by Rocamat.

AYBC (French)

Rocamat (French)

Communes de Pierre Sud Oise (French)

Roads that morph into walls were hitherto seen only in the movies like „Inception“ starring Leonardo di Caprio. But wait: the town of Olliergues in the French Auvergne Region has some similarity. The pavement of the new community road seems to continue seamlessly into the facades – at least to their bases and to the fountains in the streets. This project, too, was awarded one of the prizes.

Stone was applied in three variations: one in form of plates of the usual granite used in facades, two in irregular cobblestone pieces of the same material, and finally in the form of dark pebbles. These, in turn, were traditionally used as cobble stone for paving pathways – now, however, they are sliced through the middle making for even surfaces and making negotiation easy.

It was the architect’s aim to give the street back to the citizens, or as stated in a description, „replacing asphalt with local material and local history“. An asphalt lane is reserved for automobiles.

Landscape architect was Michel Astier (Mail).

Cobblestone work was carried out by Durand Pavage (French).

A design object was also awarded a prize. „Phalaénopsis“ is a lamp by Arnaud Etienne Fontaine inspired by the popular cultivated orchid. 120 cm high and 20 cm x 20 cm the lamp can be ordered in a number of stone types according to customer’s wishes. Each piece is unique bearing a serial number and the designer’s signature. The light source is an low-energy LED.

Arnaud Etienne Fontaine

A shelter similar to Italian Trully is an award-winning part of the Lubéron Regional Park. Prior to the project, there was nothing but a ruin left of the ancient building. Now it shines in its original splendour after renovation of the classic cladding. The main aim was to implement local material: 25 m³ were delivered from quarries in a 4 km perimeter. The park also has a water basin, this one an award-winning submission by architect Christian Hudelot.

That which we call awards for building with natural stone is properly known as Concours d’Architecture Pierre Naturelle in local vernacular. The prize was awarded for the second time and is a joint initiative of Syndical National des Industries de Roches Ornemantales et de Construction (SN ROC) and the trade journal „Pierre Actual“. Some other award-winners were mentioned in our last issue.

„Pierre Actual“ (French)

Photos with friendly permission of „Pierre Actual“.