The three buildings of the former National Archive in Versailles is converted into two housing and one office block by ‘cutting out’ parts the heavy concrete floors, creating double height spaces. Open loggias along the facades contrast with the narrow streets in-between the three existing buildings.
Double height loggias and open walkways on the façades facing the inner space between the three buildings ‘open up’ the inward facing rooms, fostering a sense of community by encouraging interaction between the live/work neighbours.
We devised a strategy of ‘cutting away’, removing columns and floors to make space for larger rooms and increase floor to ceiling heights. The aim was to preserve the character of the building, revealing curious and surreal moments from its past as an archive, and in doing so, create beautiful spaces to live and work.
Working with the raw aesthetics and existing grain of the building, a grid of columns, the creation of double aspect rooms and spaces filled with natural light were the main drivers for the design.
The starting point for this design was the acknowledgment that there was something very beautiful about the National Archive buildings already. The simple repetition of the facades and the rhythm of the external columns, the glass bricks, the clarity and presence of the three building volumes, the introvert character of the buildings emphasised by the mute facades towards the street, long abstract rows of columns towards the inside, the unusual proximity of one building to another leaving a narrow, almost surreal gap in between. On the other hand, there is some room for improvement. A fence and deep trench enclose the Archives complex, disconnecting the buildings from the public realm. The in-between spaces are dark and the ceilings extremely low.
By removing the upper storey of the middle building we were able to bring more daylight into the adjacent buildings. The external concrete columns were left in place to outline the original volume of the building. A new roof garden is framed by the oversailing columns of the façade provoking a contrast between the heavy structure of the building and a more natural environment.