AIA Life Designers : Salle à tracer

Realize its premises: a challenge for an architecture agency. So what ? Build new? Rehabilitate, at the risk that the leg of the former takes over the project? Or the opposite, to succeed a delicate renovation where the stamp of existing does not prevent new occupants to put their touch? It is this tour de force that the agency AIA Life Designers realized in its local Nantes delivered in 2017.

If building for others does not take sinecure, building for oneself can paradoxically prove to be an even more complex exercise, especially for an architectural agency, which is then plagued by a certain schizophrenia: wearing both the cap master builder and owner. Last year, the international studio AIA Life Designers, founded in 1975, and better known under its former name AIA Associates, successfully completed this difficult exercise. A file (almost) like any other for him, which however has the additional dimension of standard door.


First step for AIA: find the premises of a new pied-à-terre able to accommodate more than 200 employees. The members of the agency, hitherto based in the suburbs of the City of the Dukes of Brittany, had a crush on the old Dubigeon sites dating from the 1920 years, located on the banks of the Loire, in the former municipality of Chantenay today integrated into the city. "The Salle à tracer is a remnant of the industrial and naval past of the Chantenay district in Nantes. This isolated testimony owes its survival only within the stubbornness of its owner [Jacque Fétis, President of the company SECODI, ed] to want to preserve this piece of history ", as the book Pascal Fourrier, partner of AIA. A choice that has proved more expensive than that of new construction, but that people do not regret. It must be said that this 65 13 hangar installed perpendicular to the watercourse is full of history. It is indeed here, in the vast 800 square meter plotting room installed on the second floor of the PLU heritage monument in Nantes, that the ship's hull jigs were drawn at the 1 scale, on the same scale. ground by means of brass wedges. "It's called the salle des prieurs because the apprentices worked here on their knees," says Pascal Fourrier. A past whose fir floor preserves the stigmas, that the architects wished to encapsulate under a dry slab and punctually glazed - a solution taken in concert with the Architect of the buildings of France.

This three-storey industrial monument, abandoned since 1969, was in an advanced state of deterioration, which required 9 months of demolition and curettage of the concrete frame - highly degraded and poor in reinforcement - which had to be fretted with great steel reinforcement. Some bracing crosses have also had to be removed because they stiffened the building excessively. Once reinforced, the cells of this skeleton were filled with OSB and wood or Metisse® insulation.
The large original volume was then extended from 16 meters to the north, street side, in continuity with the existing template. The extension, largely glazed, includes a technical heart with elevators and toilets, as well as a triple-height entrance hall interrupted by a suspended volume of Corten® steel containing four meeting rooms. For the sake of architectural coherence, a new part in wood frame and old were covered with a robust and unitary VMZinc Quartz, standing seams on the roof, which extends into boards gable south and cassettes side extension. In short, a unified project, in which designers have set up meeting rooms and large spaces with flexible organization - including the use of wheeled furniture.

With this extension / rehabilitation, AIA Life Designers was able to mark the building of its seal, while enhancing its history.

The project is selected for the ADC Awards 2019 in the category Tertiary / Rehabilitation

To learn more, visit the ADC Awards website and D'AIA Life Designers.

Photographs: G. Satre photographer

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