New National Archives of France

Paris, France

New National Archives of France ©2013 Roland Halbe
New National Archives of France ©2013 Roland Halbe

The project of the New National Archives of France draws its inspiration from the surrounding reality, from the city seen as coexistence of chaos and order. The concept is born and takes place from this duality which is reflected in the organization of the complex.

Aerial view ©2013 Roland Halbe
Aerial view ©2013 Roland Halbe

The initial choice was to investigate the site and its characteristics in both territorial and socio-cultural contexts to reveal a unique identity. The work has therefore been thought following a cardinal principle of architecture to create spaces according to the needs of the communities that populate them.

Partial elevation ©2013 Roland Halbe
Partial elevation ©2013 Roland Halbe

The design of the New National Archives of France has followed the intent of enhancing the geographical and architectural landscape of the area Pierrefitte sur-Seine Saint Denis, where the building inserts itself.

Block stacking ©2013 Roland Halbe
Block stacking ©2013 Roland Halbe

The complex has not been designed as a self-referring architecture, but as a work that could hold the memory and the collective identity, at the same time open to contemporary artistic expressions. It has not been thought from a contemplative perspective, but from a perspective of discovery, research and participation for the visitors.

Volume Comparison ©2013 Roland Halbe
Volume Comparison ©2013 Roland Halbe

The project is composed of two main “bodies”: one that extends horizontally, “suspended, lightweight, transparent”; the other with tension in height, “anchored to the ground, imposing, reflective”.

The first, stretching out towards the city, consists of cantilevered volumes called “satellites” that accommodate the offices, the conference room and the exhibition room. The facades, mostly glazed, give lightness and transparency to the volumes of different proportions, that follow each other and overlap in “suspension” on the surfaces of the water.

悬臂体量 ©2013 Roland Halbe
Cantilever volume ©2013 Roland Halbe

The building that accommodates the Archives is an imposing monolith thought as a place dedicated to memory and research. It houses the archival documents and the reading room. The facades of the monolith are coated with aluminium “skin” that runs throughout the volume, except for some glazed insertions that allow the amount of natural light in the reading room and the entry route. The “noble” sculptural building, with a basin in part lapped against it, reminds the idea of a precious object, a treasure chest, that is reflected in the water veil.

The basins insert themselves between the building of the Archives, the “satellite” volumes and at the foot of the satellite volumes. Walkways above them create a connection both between the cantilevered volumes and the two “bodies”. The water veil becomes a vehicle of change for the architecture, designing voids and new spaces, thanks to the reflections and the play of natural light created by the cuts of the suspended volumes and the “skin” of the monolith. The facades of both “bodies” follow a lozenge geometry that is repeated both in the aluminium cladding of the building of the Archives and in the glass facades of the “satellite” volumes.

Connecting corridors ©2019 Kamal Khalfi
Connecting corridors ©2019 Kamal Khalfi

Between the monolith and the “satellite” volumes stands the artwork by Antony Gormley. A precious sculptural object that rises from the veil of the water below, like to draw strength from it. This re-designs the spaces in a contemporary way, winding along the facades of the architectural complex. The geometric faces articulate the artwork along its passage and give life to the overall structure, which reflects and projects itself between the basin of water and the mirror surfaces of the volumes.

Partial Perspective ©2019 Kamal Khalfi
Partial Perspective ©2019 Kamal Khalfi

The link with the memory is symbolically traced in the work of Pascal Convert, a series of concrete “strongboxes” set in the area in front of the “satellite” volumes. These show in relief the faces of some personalities that left their mark on the collective memory. The art installation is tightly anchored to the ground, as well as the volume of the monolith, like roots sinking into the depths of memory.

Artworks ©2013 Roland Halbe
Artworks ©2013 Roland Halbe

A double-height hall welcomes the visitors. The “suspended” effect of the “satellite” volumes is highlighted by the art intervention by Susanna Fritscher which, through a minimalist touch that consists of the realization of ceilings as stainless steel “sheets” shaded in red, emphasizes the interaction between the architecture of the complex and the lines of the “satellites” volumes. The red colour gives depth to the volumes that stand out horizontally at different heights, creating at the same time a play of solids and voids, between material and immaterial.

Lobby space ©2013 Roland Halbe
Lobby space ©2013 Roland Halbe

The entrance leads to areas dedicated to the public: the reading room, the exhibition room and the conference room. The interiors are characterized by large spaces that give an overview that makes immediately perceive the importance and the uniqueness of the place.

Interior view ©2013 Roland Halbe
Interior view ©2013 Roland Halbe

The importance of context, and therefore the importance of the territory, assumes concrete form in the landscape intervention by Florence Mercier. Her design of green spaces has created a real interaction between nature, architecture and the visitors. The green walk that introduces and takes the visitors to the complex is like a stage that alternates geometries, shapes, colours, and shades. A project that aims to give emotions. Two “bodies”, two “worlds”, symbolically connected by walkways that, in a constant cross-reference, creates an identity that is rooted in the memory of the past with an eye to the contemporaneity and the future. The project reflects identity and memory that belong to France and to all humanity.

Project drawings

Site plan ©2021 Archivio Fuksas
Site plan ©2021 Archivio Fuksas
Hand-drawn sketches ©2007 Massimiliano Fuksas
Hand-drawn sketches ©2007 Massimiliano Fuksas
Ground floor ©2021 Archivio Fuksas
Ground floor ©2021 Archivio Fuksas
Hand-drawn sketches ©2005 Massimiliano Fuksas
Hand-drawn sketches ©2005 Massimiliano Fuksas

Project information

NameNew National Archives of France
Site法国,巴黎,Pierrefitte sur Seine-Saint Denis,
Period2005 – 2013
ClientFrench Ministry of Culture and Communication
Represented by DAF – Direction des Archives de France
Delegate clientOPPIC – Opérateur du patrimoine et des projets immobiliers de la Culture
ArchitectsMassimiliano and Doriana Fuksas
Interior designFuksas Design
Area108,136㎡
General contractorBouygues Construction
Engineering consultantBETOM Ingégnierie
Acoustic consultantALTIA
Landscape consultantFlorence MERCIER
Control department consultantSOCOTEC
Facades consultantKyotec

Editing: @Ibo, ©️FULLDES authorized publishing, copyright from the Author, Image copyright from the photographer or Company

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