Architecture: Stone „curtains“

Round the clock...(October 2009) Building in Versailles presents a particular challenge. This is the home of the Sun King Luis XIV, Measure of all Things, forcing baroque-clad houses in the vicinity into submission. If, then, the object of the project is to rebuild the École des Arts Décoratifs, all the while allowing light to penetrate and opening a view into the interior whereby students should not feel exposed as if on a platter, things become rather complicated.

Platane Beres, founder of Platane Architecte in Paris, found an unconventional solution. By implementing Pierre de Chamesson for the street-side façade, he paid tribute to the traditional Versailles building material. However he did not merely build a 6 m-high wall from street-level to roof. In fact his construction resembles a sort of curtain, behind which the stripes of the limestone and those of the windows alternate as a surface.

By means of this construction, daylight can penetrate into the building indirectly so the artists’ work is not inhibited by direct sunlight. At the same time, it allows passers-by to steal an obtuse glance into the hall-high ground floor. And, last but not least, the configuration reduces noise pollution caused by the cobblestone pavement outside the building

As a tribute to the École des Arts Décoratifs, the architect conceived the „curtains“ with unusual curvatures created with the help of a CNC-machine lending the appearance of an art sculpture in progress perhaps, but definitely sensual.

The „curtains“ have an air of lightness, as good art does. But the elements 2 m wide, 2.20 m high and varying in thickness between 30 and 70 cm of massive stone are a considerable weight to be born by the load bearing pillars to which they are affixed. The pillars are made of 35 cm-thick steal reinforced concrete.

The complex anchorage technique designed by the architect and produced by Metallique Ile de France, is the only aspect to which Beres paid no visible tribute. Even from behind it is impossible to see how precisely and minutely the stone plates are milled and anchored in the concrete pillars. The stone plates were worked by the French Firm 3D Pierre.

Platane Architecte

3D Pierre

Detail to the very different design at the back of the plates as well as to the interior of the building: see Interior Design.

Details regarding the anchorage of the plates are published in the French trade magazine Pierre Actual vol. 5/2009 (which can be purchased on-line for 12 €).

Photos: Eric Laignel