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Nicole Concordet : Le Confort Moderne

Modern comfort? Behind this strange name designating a group of former agricultural sheds, is the new multicultural center of Poitiers (86) which physically and administratively brings together an art gallery, a concert hall, a club, a bar and associative premises, after thirty years of separate operation. A rehabilitation and extension signed by Nicole Condorcet whose only precept is respect for the past.

20 May 1985, rue du Faubourg Pont Neuf in Poitiers, which was a former factory of agricultural machinery and warehouses of household appliances named Confort.2000, opened to the public. The result: 8 500 square meters divided into four buildings housing an art gallery, a concert hall, and local associations made available to residents, dedicated to artistic and musical expression.

In this neighborhood both peripheral and industrial, located east of the city center, the project had from its inception resulted in "a rising shield", as the book Alain Claeys, current Mayor of Poitiers. Indeed, at the time, nobody imagined that this type of equipment could have its place in a suburban area and in a place so far removed from the usual typology of museum institutions and as little adapted to the uses, composed of adjoining buildings the ceilings are far too low and do not communicate with each other, with no forecourt in common and with circulations that are not very fluid. However, year after year, Modern Comfort has become an appropriate meeting place for locals and a cultural emblem for the city. " There is a prerequisite, adds Nicole Condorcet. The use of words is not free. "

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In September 2017, after sixteen months of work, the establishment, become obsolete and always more unfit for its uses, has a facelift, under the leadership of Nicole Concordet, having founded the agency Build with Patrick Bouchain and Loïc Julienne in 1998 . The rehabilitation of the four old industrial halls, taking place on a large rectangular plot, is the most respectful and the simplest possible, according to the recipe that made the success of the architect - only the "slaughterhouse" placed at the west of the site in a state of disrepair has been destroyed and replaced by a technical court. " The place had arrived at the limit of its possibilities. It had to be switched to the future "Says the designer. But " it was necessary to respect 30 years of expression and prior work ».
For this, the project manager decided to keep the original location and function of the buildings on one level, but by opening them to each other, limiting the interventions to a minimum.
The entrance, a simple passage between two houses on a residential street, has not changed. The duo of German artists Lang & Baumann has simply painted on the facade of one of them a psychedelic fresco with pop colors, bringing a totemic dimension to the modest home but especially a visual cue for the curious who would seek the access of this discreet enclave.

From the main courtyard, a physical and symbolic highlight, is the main warehouse housing the 1 100 square art gallery. Juxtaposed perpendicularly to him, a second hangar housing the reception, a bar and a music club of 250 places; while opposite is arranged a third hall, which for its part hosts a concert hall with a capacity of 800 people.

In order to complete the rich cultural offer of the site, two two-storey wooden buildings have been added: to the west 12 artist residences and three recording studios, and to the east, offices, a kitchen and the Fanzinotheque - collection of fanzines and small editions. All the roofs were then raised from 2 to 5 meters, for spaces more generous and more adapted to the practices. All harmonized under a black zinc cover. On both sides of the hangar, the forecourt and the technical courtyard - located between the houses and the original hall - are sheltered by a translucent polycarbonate jagged roof that creates a physical link between the parts of the building. a whole finally unified.

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Anxious to preserve the industrial identity of the old wasteland and faithful to its approach of reusing materials, Nicole Condorcet made the choice to preserve the maximum of existing architectural elements. The old metal structures supporting the sheds, then free of their old corrugated iron sheets, are now used, for example, as scenic supports for shows and exhibitions, while testifying to the history of the place. The construction hut, where the daily meetings of craftsmen, student volunteers and building owners took place, was developed from materials found on the site. An approach, mingled with the promise of a short yard, which seduced the owner: the City.

A project inscribed as much in a desire to reappropriate and safeguard the architectural heritage of Poitiers, as in a social and cultural process of the Commune, which however lacks a strong urban bias. But perhaps it is ultimately here that lies all its richness.

To learn more, visit the website of Nicole Concordet

Photographs: Pierre Antoine; Lang & Baumann and Nicole Concordet

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