Built in the 1970’s, the construction and commerce apprentice training centre in Saintes in western France has undergone heavy refurbishment in several phases. One involved restructuring and renovating the kitchens, the self-service and eating areas. The main objective was to revitalise this large space that had been “literally abandoned” according to architect François Poirier-Bordage of Atelier PBa. The key concern was acoustic comfort. “I would say that 80% of the project’s success was down to this”, the designer adds. The rest is a story about Vibrasto and creative freedom.
Saintes construction and commerce apprentice training centre
The original prefabricated concrete structure is quite rigid. The first challenge for the architect was to break up the volume’s monotonous feel, and especially the sawtooth ceiling. “My grandfather was a clock-maker”, recounts François, “and Vibrasto really made it possible for me to work on the ceiling like a master craftsman, designing everything in a totally bespoke manner. The idea was to build a slightly fractured dome to trap the sound, but in a gentle way. In a way that captures the imagination and beckons the users in. Like a landscape on the ceiling.” The facets are all different sizes and stretch-fitted with Vibrasto in three shades of green, a colour that aids digestion according to the architect. This enables the centre of the dome to be a little …well, off-centre. There are some cut-outs for lighting and the perimeter is highlighted with long neon strips. The architect comments how easy it was for the installers, assisted by the Texaa team, to assemble this large acoustic jigsaw. He concludes: “I also wanted to show the apprentices that really the only limit is your imagination. Especially because quite a few of them want to work in the building trades.” Mission accomplished! Teachers and apprentices have returned to eat in the refectory.
Project name: Restructuring and renovation of the kitchens, self-service and eating areas of the construction and commerce apprentice training centre (housing about 700 apprentices)
Year to be delivered: 2022
Town-city / Country: Saintes
Project owner or contracting authority: CCCA-BTP
Contractor: Atelier PBa – Architect: François Poirier-Bordage
Photographer: Ivan Mathie
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