Cultural and tourist centre

Client : Communauté d’Agglomération de Saint-Dié-des-Vosges (public authority of the Saint-Dié-des-Vosges urban area)
Cost : €10,533,000 excl. VAT
Surface : 4,819m2

The town of Saint-Dié-des-Vosges wanted to turn a disused administrative site, dating back to the period when the town was rebuilt, into a cultural centre with a media library, a tourist information centre and a 4,800m2 floor area. The old complex was made up of a central courtyard and several buildings next to one another. These buildings once housed the town’s police station, high court and chamber of commerce. We thought that it would be a good idea to bring these different sections together to offer a complex centred upon a vast communal space.   We chose to do this because ‘La Boussole’, a new centre for culture and tourism that opened in 2023, is not only a hub for learning and leisure: it can also lay claim to the status of a ‘third place’. Indeed, its new structure and events schedule encourage encounters, both between individuals and groups. We decided that the new exhibition room would close the elevation on the street Rue Jean-Jacques Baligan and that a glass roof, tinted with red and yellow, would crown the former courtyard. Like an openwork tealight holder, this concrete structure casts natural light in geometric shapes of flat tints. And a suspended cubic space with a mirror finish underlines the effect of spatial tension that we were looking for.   From this approach, a central solar atrium with a 300m2 floor area was born. Its ceiling is seven metres high. Here, spaces for work and relaxation adjoin each other seamlessly, creating a continuum: an indoor landscape and a core that visually brings together the main areas of the programme in its double height. Indeed, this new centre offers a wide range of public spaces (including an exhibition room, a video games hub and a seed library). These spaces are spread out over the ground floor and first floor. The storerooms are in the basement. And the administrative offices are on the second floor.  Two bright-red sets of terraces are a hallmark of this project. They are placed in staggered rows on the sides of the reading space, amplifying the sense of convergence towards this centre of social gravity.   By creating storerooms beneath the former courtyard, we were able to raise the latter by one metre and thereby offer a same-level connection to the existing building. Furthermore, a reading garden now lies where a car park did, on the south side. The building’s elevations have been restyled and pared down to showcase the architectural design that characterised the reconstruction of Saint-Dié-des-Vosges. And through their elegantly understated design, the new spaces are at home here.   These different new spaces are designed to break with the monotony of the original buildings. They are architectural statements that give ‘La Boussole’ its new identity. These additions create markers that have each been crafted in a particular way. The series of alternating open and closed spaces create a sense of surprise when you discover the place. That is why we chose to produce a coiling movement from the large forecourt and its gentle slope. This forecourt runs along the western elevation, offering views into the gallery inside, then takes you to the main reception, from where your gaze is drawn to the central atrium bathed in natural light and, on its right, the transparency of the southern elevation that looks out at the reading garden.