Little by little, France's departmental authorities are rediscovering their heritage and, consequently, their archives. Archives represent the collective memory of a department and the buildings housing them become showcases. We have moved away from technical and empirical archiving towards a more publicly accessible methodology, located in the city centre and with user-friendly environments.
The building must also reconcile architectural considerations with the storage of documents kept in protective conditions. Here, the challenge is to enable air renewal while maintaining good hygrothermic stability and minimising energy consumption.
The new building must also express the heritage of the city, accommodate the public and encourage them to visit, and promote knowledge. In short, it must form part of a cultural and urban approach. Locating the project in a currently evolving district, close to the universities and easily accessible by tram, kept this approach in mind. In particular, the project will become part of a 'cultural corridor' with flourishing public and cultural facilities helping to enrich the district and increase its population. The specific site - between an up-and-coming urban boulevard and the high-speed railway line connecting Lyon with Europe – places it very much in the spotlight.
HIERARCHY OF BOXES
The public entrance is at street level, with a dramatic raised central cube offering access to visitors. The spacious reading room, located between two cubes, is unencumbered by the structure of the upper levels and enjoys plenty of natural light, engendering respect and silence. Archiving calls for the careful and skilled 'boxing up' of documents. The boxes should be well designed and attractive, signalling by their very nature the value of their contents. Our city-scale project comprises three such boxes, containing another layer of boxes - the archive rooms - themselves encompassing yet smaller boxes - the archives.
The building 'boxes' are therefore made of valuable materials: stone, copper and glass. The stone base is split black granite in horizontal layers. The central spaces containing the archives are clad with golden copper alloy sheets, embossed to add texture. This durable alloy will retain its colour over time. The offices form the crown of the building, sheltered by a ventilated double-skin glass façade, like a protective lid on a precious treasure casket.