Stunning office overcomes challenging site with arched design
It's said that necessity is the mother of invention and in Snøhetta's case this indeed proved to be true. Commissioned to design a new headquarters for French media giant Le Monde Group on a site that couldn't support a heavy structure at its center due to underground rail lines, the firm created a striking building that's defined by a large arch.
The building was designed in collaboration with local firm SRA, with Archimage handling interior design, and is located in central Paris. It sports an eye-catching pixelated facade comprising over 20,000 pieces of glass arranged in a series of 772 patterns, the idea being that its appearance shifts with the changing weather and light. Additionally, the patterned facade is meant to reference the printed letters of newspapers and magazines.
The initial brief for the project called for not one but two buildings situated near each other, with an area in between them left unbuilt due to the underground rail lines. However, the firm decided it would make for a more useful headquarters to have one unified building.
"The first challenge, therefore, was to construct a building where the entire technical system of the building would be cleverly incorporated into the structure of the building itself," explains the firm. "The second challenge was that the site could only carry a specific amount of weight, and only on the two extremities of the site. As the middle section was not planned to hold the weight of a building, the client's initial brief was to create two buildings on the parts of the site that were buildable."
"Snøhetta and SRA's response to these challenges was to work on the idea of merging the two units together through a bridging structure of steel that would literally leapfrog from one side of the site to the other: a highly demanding engineering task for a building that weighs more than the Eiffel Tower. Nonetheless, it was a necessary one: only a unified building would create the dynamic environment needed to unite the different magazine and newspaper titles of the Le Monde Group."
The exterior of the archway is clad in concrete and has integrated LED lighting, and it creates a space for bicycle parking and seating. Meanwhile, the interior of the building measures 23,000 sq m (roughly 250,000 sq ft), spread over eight floors. Most of this is space taken up by offices for Le Monde Group's various publications, but there are also reception areas, a library, a conference area, a staff cafeteria, restaurant, and meeting rooms. Additionally, the building features a terrace area lined with greenery that offers views of the nearby Seine river.
Snøhetta actually has prior form dealing with awkward sites that are broken up by rail lines and previously designed the somewhat similar Calgary Central Library too.