Lyon / Rhône

For architects, the creation of an agency is both a manifesto and an experiment, an expression of intent and a showcase. More than any other type of initiative, it merits care and attention. It is an unusual example of a project being commissioned and implemented by the same body. But the materialisation of the ideal scenario involves a number of complexities and contradictions. This is the challenge Tectoniques took on with the renovation of a disused workshop in Lyon’s Part-Dieu district. 

A change of paradigm

Lack of space was one of the reasons why Tectoniques changed premises, and questions were raised about the way the agency functioned. When an attempt to form a «critical mass» with other architects failed to work out, the team decided to make a fresh start. It left the Croix-Rousse district, where it had been located from the outset, for the Part-Dieu, on the left bank of the Rhône. The contrast between the two locations is stark. The Croix-Rousse, steep and densely populated, was the historical heartland of the «canuts» (silk workers). The Part-Dieu, formerly becalmed in the 1970s, is now making a comeback, with a major programme of urban regeneration and high-rise office blocks. Tectoniques’ previous premises were extensively glazed, on the ground floor of a wooded square that looked out over the city. Its new premises are at the heart of a city block, set back from the street and structured round a garden. But there is a certain continuity, with the transformation of a printing works into an architectural studio. The choice of this location was also a result of practical considerations. Its numerous assets include a rich network of transport links, and in particular the nearby high-speed TGV train station. 

Windows on a garden

The pre-existing building consisted of a large open space covered by an imposing wooden structure. Town-planning regulations meant that the floor area could not be increased, but that it could be reduced. So it was converted into a U-shaped structure, the interior of which became a patio and a garden that captured natural light and connected up to the building itself through picture windows. The resulting landscape stands in contrast to the surrounding tertiary-sector austerity. The outer facades are in smooth panels of a metallised malachite colour with flush, larch-framed openings. Their arrangement is ostensibly (but not really) random. And this graphic motif is also used for the inner surfaces. On the garden side, the wall consists of glazed sliding panels. The general idea was to illustrate the protocol of dry construction that Tectoniques has always favoured. 

Spaciousness and tranquillity

The garden, designed in partnership with Jean-Baptiste Lestra, is the living heart of the project – an oasis of serenity in a dense urban context. The plants and trees were chosen for the ways in which they change with the seasons. The architecture creates a certain visual and spatial harmony between the outside and the inside, so that the boundaries between them are blurred. The pale-coloured walls and floor maximise the effect of the light, and the northern orientation prevents overheating. 

A place to work

The building is airy and uncluttered. It was designed to be open on the ground floor and the mezzanine, which are surrounded by four meeting rooms facing the garden.
The spatial configuration reflects the agency’s modus operandi, which is horizontal, cooperative and non-hierarchical. Right from the start the emphasis has been on a unitary identity and collective working practices. As regards the question of office space, a neither-nor policy has been applied: the floor space is neither completely open nor occupied by conventional offices. A relative degree of privacy is preserved, but not to the exclusion of communication. The meeting rooms can also be used for individual or collective work (or, indeed, for sharing a meal). The overall objective was to create an optimal model of a work station that could be duplicated over a large space, except for the secretariat and the administrative department, which need more seclusion and confidentiality. Along with the open space there are alcoves equipped with storage units. The working surfaces are set at 99 cm above floor level so as to accommodate both seated and standing positions, and thus to facilitate the mix of mobile and stationary activities that characterises the agency. 

An all-wood volume

The idea of constructing almost exclusively in wood was self-evident. And it was applied both to the architectural-technical character of the project and to its natural ergonomics. The inside surfaces are in three-ply panels, while the partitions, floors and furniture are in light-coloured spruce. The geometrical design of the panels imparts a subtle compositional effect. The wooden frame of the original building could not be conserved. It was replaced by a combined wood and metal structure that allowed the volume to be freed up. The outer wall, with its wooden frame, has 30 cm of high-performance insulation, and the roof has been given 40 cm of cellulose wadding. An extra layer on the outer surface encloses the existing structure, and the total thickness of the walls is 80 cm. It should be noted that facades of this depth, necessitated by performance requirements, are a new subject for architects. They also result in the creation of spaces behind the windows that are usable for storage or display purposes. The depth of the wall produces a distancing and screening effect in relation to the outside world that is further reinforced by a stand of bamboo in front of the facade. As regards construction materials, apart from wood and glass (which, besides the windows onto the garden, is used for certain partitions, such as those of the meeting rooms), metal serves a functional purpose for railings, and for the linings of the doors that have been retained from the frame of the original building. The floor is covered in a varnished anhydrite screed. The technical equipment is concealed by wood panels, and the air vents have been replaced by perforated spruce panels. The project exemplifies a consistent environmental approach, like the buildings the agency constructs for its clients. In particular, there is the comprehensive insulation of the facades and the roof, a floor with a ground-coupled heat pump, double-flow ventilation with heat recovery, a natural nocturnal ventilation system for use in hot weather (motorised louvres with north-south circulation of air), abundant natural light, and artificial lighting with detectors of movement and photoelectric cells. 

Former printer’s workshop transformed into an office platform for architecture and engineering companies in the Part-Dieu district in Lyon

Areas : 503 m2
Cost : NC
Client : SCI TDN

Architects : Tectoniques
Energy, gas : Technip TPS Support
Renewable energy support : Inddigo
Wood structure : Arborescence
Supervision : Apave 


Environmental approach

Reversible underfloor heating system powered by a heat pump fed by a groundwater borehole
Double-flow ventilation with heat recovery
Natural night ventilation device for hot periods
Wood and bio-sourced construction

Principales entreprises / main firms

Bois / wood : Schneider ; Béton / concrete : Bailly ; Menuiseries /carpentries : Ferlay ; Electricité, courants faibles / electricity, low-voltage : Tertiel ; Chauffage Ventilation Climatisation / heating ventilation air-conditionning : Moos ; Platrerie Peinture / painting : Erding ; Etanchéïté / weatherproofing : ACEM ; Chappe / screed : Chapisol ; Espaces verts / open spaces : Greenstyle ; Sols Collés / flexible floors coverings : Soria ; Forage / Bore hole : Ozon.

Principaux produits et dispositifs / Main products and systems

Façades / facades : panneaux Trespa ; Habillages intérieurs et mobilier trois-plis épicéa / three-ply laminated interior pannel and furniture : Tilly ; Chassis / frame : Mélèze; Chappes / Floor screed : Anhydrite teintée / Teinted Anhydrite cement ; Sols collés / Résilient flooring / Caoutchouc Artigo ; Stores / blinds : Griesser ; Quincaillerie / ironmonger : Hoppe ; Luminaires / Lightings : Philips, Artémide, flux, Erco ; Pompe à chaleur / Heat pomp : CIAT ; Stockages : Provost.