Maison des Arts

Charbonnières les Bains / Rhône

The Maison des Arts arts centre is a new public facility in Charbonnières-les-Bains, a residential town to the west of Lyon. It is situated in the valley of a small river which runs through the town, along the railway line. The setting is green and leafy, with just a few sparse buildings surrounded by gardens. 

The building blends into the site harmoniously. It is a generous project with careful attention paid to all four sides. It is also a solitary object which dialogues with its setting on all sides and through its overall silhouette. 

A hybrid structure

The project’s architecture is characterised by the tandem structure. The base, massive and mineral, which follows and absorbs the slope; and the perforated metal roof which stands out against the sky like a light, delicate headdress. The concrete and metal play on the contrast between opacity and transparency, light and weight, light masses and dark surfaces. The materials are raw and uncompromising. Everything is visible and reveals the perfect coherence between the exterior and interior, between the architectural image and the means of production.

This building is part of a new generation of projects built by Tectoniques. 

In the continuity of the work already undertaken, certain key points such as the materials, the relationship to the ground, the depth and the construction have been developed to make use of systems which are different from those the architects are known for, in particular “all-wood” building solutions. 

A remarkable but constrained site

The Maison des Arts is situated in a residential neighbourhood, surrounded by villas with large gardens and swathes of trees. However, the selected plot has a number of significant constraints. It is located on a narrow strip between the road (Chemin de la Ferrière) and the railway line. This unexpected backdrop of rails, masts, cables and overhead lines jars with the leafy landscape surrounding the project. The other major difficulty was the steep slope of the land.

The relative isolation of the building is compensated for by its proximity to other facilities: the town hall, the library, the nursery and primary schools, and the stadium, all situated on the other side of the valley and easily, as well as safely, accessible. 

The river valley, below the railway line, is a popular walk with residents, along a path which leads to the cinema, then on to the station and central town square. The architects were able to work around the original site which, as well as its limitations, has a number of considerable assets.

A project built into the slope

The first objective was to make use of the steep slope of the land by using the height difference to integrate part of the programme into the incline. The programme is divided into two: the Maison des Jeunes (youth centre) and the Maison des Arts (arts centre). The former is composed of two large halls dedicated to clubs and associations which operates independently of the rest of the building. It is integrated into the space created when excavating the site, with its own entrance to the north, close to the skatepark. The latter conserves its own access to the south on the upper level, opposite the esplanade and landscaped car park. 

One on top of another

From a building perspective, the concrete base serves to absorb the topography and acoustically isolate the facility from the noise of the railway. It uses two very distinct styles. The lower section is smooth. The upper section is formed with a matrix of wooden boards, a nod to Tectoniques’ material of choice. The material used for the base is very fluid concrete, poured and formed in situ, which uses dyed white cement to give a milky, ochre-tinted appearance. 

The structure is visually both raw and delicate. The materials are unfinished but the precision of their implementation and the composition of the mix means the final result tends towards a more refined materiality. The concrete is also enhanced by the use made of its thickness and mass. For example, the series of circular holes drilled into the facade to let light into the building, the inscription engraved on the south facade, and the intriguing emergency exit door made of concrete.

The Maison des Jeunes occupies the smooth, lower section of the base. The upper section is composed of spaces available for use by cultural associations: theatre, dance, singing, with a reception, offices, rehearsal rooms and dance studios.

Above this, the top part of the programme is made of wood. It is lined with perforated and ribbed metal cladding, finished with a bronze-colour lacquer. This external skin with its fine vertical lines resembles a set of sails, creating a counterpoint to the horizontal layers and the solidity of the concrete. It is slightly elevated to mask the details of the headers, the crowns and rainwater downpipes which are position out of view. 

This floor is dedicated to the Marcy-l’Etoile and Charbonnières-les-Bains music schools. The rooms vary in size and are offset from each other and forming a toothcomb which folds in and out, creating a singular structure, positioned atop its base, calm and benevolent. 

A clear relationship between the different structures

The interface between the concrete structure and the other project components are simplified and clarified to the greatest possible extent. This stance is one of the hallmarks of Tectoniques’ work. The firm’s strategy is to clarify the interfaces between the structures, in particular the masonry and the assembled components.  

The former is implemented with a tolerance measured in centimetres, whilst the latter are dimensioned using the accuracy of digital cutting. The former is complicated to transform and reuse, as they need to be returned to the start of the cycle (aggregate and scrap metal) whereas the latter can be dismantled and sometimes reused immediately (wood components are currently the stars of reuse). A certain number of critical points are identified as the project is developed and are processed with the constant aim of clarifying the relationship. 

A calm feel and noble materials

The entrance to the building is denoted by a large overhang which protects the south facade from the sunlight. The esplanade and public spaces use deactivated concrete in coherence with the mineral quality of the project’s base. Further up the slope, a car park with 30 spaces is built into the incline. The spaces are composed of paving slabs and grass in keeping with the green setting. 

Inside the building, only a small number of materials are used but the emphasis is on quality: 

  • Formed concrete on the interior walls, identical to the external facade
  • Solid oak flooring with its natural subtle variations in colour
  • Solid oak or beech woodwork
  • Frames made of bronze anodized aluminium
  • Wall coverings using compact laminate panels on the central core
  • Ceilings using perforated plaster boards

The feel is gentle, stripped back, bathed in natural light. The entrance area, with its double-height ceiling, lends a certain amplitude to this space designed for sharing and discussion, ideal for hosting small cultural events. Its funnel shape draws visitors into the heart of the project.

The large lightbox-like dance studio 

The large dance studio occupies the prow of the building. It takes up the whole north side and is the first thing you see when arriving from the town centre: theatral from the outside, majestic inside. The kaleidoscope of mirrors inside the studio multiply the reflections and absorb the physical limitations of the space which has a floating, ethereal appearance. 

The floor of the dance studio is covered in glue-down flooring rather than a traditional solid wooden floor which is now considered to be too hard for dancers. The fully-glazed, north-facing facade provides perfect natural lighting. It is completed with openings in the upper section, also facing north, so as not to disturb the dancers. Blinds can be used to adapt to the need for privacy in certain circumstances. 

Origami music rooms

The upper floor contains eleven small music rooms for individual or group lessons. Their toothcomb layout creates excellent acoustics. They cast vertical, graphic, dynamic, changing shadows on the facades. These rooms have beautiful framed views of the surrounding landscape. The folding of the metal casing around the windows contributes to opening up more angled perspectives and surprising views. They open up onto a roof terrace which can be used by the musicians, weather permitting. To the south a large terrace overlooks the entrance to the facility.

Detail: bio-based interior insulation

The interior insulation uses Métisse® the first bio-based insulation made in France, the end product of the textile recycling chain put into place by Relais (a network of social enterprises). With collection points in most towns in France, Relais offers people the opportunity to do something useful with their unwanted clothes. Métisse® is made from the cotton textiles collected by Relais which would otherwise be incinerated. It recycles the raw material, cotton, renowned for its thermal and acoustic insulation properties. Tectoniques is currently using this recycled product in a number of its ongoing projects.

Client: Charbonnières-les-Bains town council
Lead Architect: Tectoniques Architectes
Scheduling, supervision and coordination: Bâti coordination

Design and Engineering:
Carcass work, fluids and quantity surveying: Tectoniques Ingénieurs
Wood Structure: Arborescence
Environmental engineering: eEgenie
Acoustics: Dbvib
Landscaping: Regeneration
Building control: Bureau Veritas
Health and Safety: Dekra industrial


Landscape gardening: Espaces verts mont d’or
Special foundations: Elts
Framing – Structure: Bertrand Duron
Wood – roofing – cladding: Charroin
Air tightness: Dazy
External aluminium metalwork – locks: B’alu
Interior woodwork: Thalmann
Plaster and paintwork: Lardy
Screed – tiling – ceramics: Fontaine
Wooden flooring: Parquet sols
Heating, ventilation and plumbing: Bealem
Geothermal boreholes: Forage Clément Gourbiere
Electricity, high and low voltage: Bertholon
Lifts: Schindler
Asbestos removal: Im3d
Demolition: Millot

Equipment and systems:

The heating system is a ground-source heat pump with boreholes (3 boreholes 126 metres deep), coupled with a high-efficiency condensing gas boiler, a solution with limited maintenance costs.

High-efficiency, low-temperature heating: radiant floor heating and cooling in all areas.

Matrix concrete supplied and developed by Lafarge.

Wood frame walls and roofing, braced with Fermacell fibre gypsum boards

Wood frame insulation panels and Pavatex wood fibre roof with Univercell cellulose wadding thermal insultation panels

Ribbed, perforated metal cladding from the Trapéza range by Arval

External anodized aluminium from Kwaneer

Adjustable aluminium sunshades by Schenker storen

Exterior wood cladding Moso Bamboo X-treme

Insulation for the interior lining using Métisse ® textile insulation.

Made-to-measure interior woodwork and frames in French beechwood by Thalman.

Industrial solid French oak flooring

Underfloor heating and cooling by Rehau

Reversible gas absorption heat pump by France Air

High-efficiency dual flow air handling unit with rotating exchanger by VIM

Geothermal boreholes on site

Lighting by Erco and Sylvanyia

Bathroom facilities Duravit and Hansgrohe

Car park grass-surrounded paving slabs by Herbadrain

Street furniture by Ghm

Bike racks by Escofet