ECOLE DES BEAUX ARTS VALENCIENNES

All glossy, cheeky insertions which unambiguously project their presence through the maintained façade.

In 2006 the Ecole Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Valenciennes moved to a refurbished facility on the outskirts of the city. What was once an office building, Usinor-Sacilor Bureaux, has been transformed by the French architect, Louis Paillard, into a site for creative production with workshops, studios, and exhibition areas.  Spaces for individual practice are conventionally conceptualized and economically inserted into the officescape plates, then painted compulsory white. Greater design ambitions are deployed in what might be termed ‘shared space’: the entry lobby, the grand stair, the amphitheatre, the library and the cafeteria – all glossy, cheeky insertions which unambiguously project their presence through the maintained façade. In a few instances windows join to highlight the effect. Colors, bright and diagrammatic, assert the circulatory logic, which, like a double-loaded corridor, is crystal clear from the get go. The predicament for the intervention is the site itself. Wedged between two rail lines and a highway, it is urbanistically insular, challenged to propel a public posture beyond the physical confines of the institutional façade.  It is thus in the instances that the school transcends its physical boundary that its creative project becomes most compelling. Students in a studio lead by Pascal Payeur prepare scenographic installations for the Cite de l’Immigration in Paris. Others under the direction of Patrick Beaucé test concepts related to digital fabrication as they produce inhabitable installations destined for local landscapes.