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University building in St. Etienne, France

Copper Architecture Forum

The use of a single facade material – a golden alloy of copper – seeks to unify separate functions in this university building in St. Etienne, France. At the same time, contrasting manifestations of the material provide demonstrations of how it can be used to create transparency, animation and drama.

The architects wanted to give a new identity to the university and make a distinction between the two functions placed together: the University Building and the Student Building. The juxtaposition of the two compositions creates a harmonious whole, embellished with various copper alloy elements to signal different areas of the building. On the south face, an emergency stairwell, 22 metres in height, forms a corner landmark. This is clad entirely in diagonal squares of the copper alloy on a mirror stainless steel frame, sparkling and changing with different lighting conditions.

The adjacent block is arranged in a simple and systematic layout, defined by the posts of the curtain walling and accentuated by the vertical elements of brise-soleil placed every 3 metres. These brise-soleil, in the form of a diamond-patterned lattice and made of strips of copper, are placed at an angle of 45° to the façade to provide protection from the sun without blocking the view. At each floor, between these elements, there are small shutters and safety rails, all in perforated copper alloy panels, which help the facade to “vibrate” by interacting with the glazing. This arrangement is shown in detail opposite. The copper alloy is used again – this time in solid form, embossed with a regular pattern - to envelope the curved auditorium wall at street level. The combined effect of all these elements is a shimmering golden skin, constantly changing with the daylight.



Université Jean Monnet de Saint Etienne
Completion date: 
Zip code: 
34 Rue Francis Baulier


Transparent structures
Type of building: 
Copper used: 
Golden alloy


Name, office: 
Christian Schouvey

Copper contractors

Isobat / Antonangeli
Address & description: 
Copper product: TECU® Gold

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Nick Hay

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