Client : Rhône Saône Développement, Cardinal Investissement SAS (promoter)
Architect : Wilmotte & Associés SA
Artist : Krijn de Koning
Structural consultant : Pierre Martin
HVAC consultant : Gecc AICC
Construction cost consultant : Jean-Claude Campion
Area : 4,719 m²
Refurbishment and transformation of the old customs warehouse into art galleries, commercial premises, offices, and restaurant.
Built in the 1930s, the old customs warehouse has resurfaced on the banks of the river Saône under the watchful eye of Notre-Dame de Fourvière. Black, this massive volume with its numerous openings has became the visual landmark of the business and leisure park developed by the Navigable Waterways of France (VNF) on the old left bank port area, upstream of the Saône and Rhone confluence.
Henceforth dedicated to culture and media, this eight-hectare site was abandoned by river transport to the profit of Pierre-Benite on the Rhône, and was previously used for logistics and organised recreation activities. The site has been enlivened with shops and a promenade along the waterfront to become a centre of excellence for the city of Lyon. Renovated from top to bottom, the customs building forms part of an innovative collective on Quai Rambaud, which includes the future leisure centre to the north, and the Musée des Confluences museum to the south.
The reconversion, committed to the specifications established in 2004 by architect François Grether and landscape architect Michel Desvigne, highlights the built volume and reinforces the rhythms of existing openings with a unified treatment. A grill of black lacquered metal covers almost all of the building, from ground to roof ridge, pitches included. In elevation, this 'mantilla' cuts the existing three-metre wide bays and horizontally reframes the old 6 metre x 80 centimetre openings. The new 6 metre x 60 centimetre openings inserted to provide light to the offices fitted out on the floors above remain hidden beneath the mantilla. Its mesh, set out on the module of the openings, follows an 18 x 4 centimetre grid. This metalwork creation is separated from the facade to let light filter through and reveal the original stonework hiding behind, renovated as a consequence.
On the roof: the mantilla covers the roofing system, its metal trays resting on a new framework, but leaves exposed the glazing of the central atrium at its ridge. Depending on the angle of view and incidence of light, the volume thus caparisoned takes on varying tonalities, from black to grey depending on the effects and reflections produced by the grid. The liveliness of the facades is mainly due to the suspended balconies that mechanically re-enact the original loading platforms. On the gable, two escape staircases hang their sculptural tendrils. All these components, returned on elevation, are produced in galvanised steel to accentuate the modular, utilitarian aspect of the superstructure. The design of the stepped (or crow-stepped) gables breaks up the silhouette of the building in its surroundings and contributes to the signal character of this beacon on the banks of the Saône. Only one corner of the building, initially allocated to offices, escapes the mantilla. This section of wall, at a reduced scale, is reproduced at the quayside by the artist Krijn de Koning in accordance with the developer's requirement for an artistic intervention to all of the buildings on the site. The vibrant material of the mantilla extends into the interior through a sophisticated continuation of the industrial vocabulary of galvanised and sheet steel. The original warehouse delivers three floors of offices above a ground floor occupied by businesses (a restaurant and two art galleries) in keeping with the development. A mechanical floor was created in the roof space to accommodate the large ventilation and thermal equipment required by the new occupancy. The floors, each of approximately 1,000 m2, meet current standards of comfort and equipment, and are organised around the central atrium which concentrates circulation in a Piranesian atmosphere of criss-crossing metal landings and lifts.
Industrial in nature, the interior provisions were revisited and ‘domesticated’, with floors of chequer plate steel and waxed concrete, exposed cable routing, etc. The view onto the river and hills of the opposite bank offers a ‘reverse shot' of the open space that completes the attractiveness and breathes breath into this raw yet refined location.