The «Prouvé island» in Maxéville is located on the northern boundary of the urban district of Nancy. This site constitutes thus an interface between an urban – or industrial – fabric in the south, and a rural periphery in the north. This transition structures the urban commitment of the design, which is characterized by a majority of collective housing on the south side, and a dominant of single-family houses on the north side.
The main positive feature of the site is its proximity to the water (the Meurthe-river and the canal). Despite the relative narrowness of the island, the two banks seem today totally separated. The initial intention of the design is therefore to link the canal and the river – to make them visible at the same time. That’s the reason why a series of transversal openings organizes the site plan : they enable unobstructed views and direct pedestrian accesses from one side of the island to another.
More generally, the issue of the views is one of the main advantages of the site. Because of the canal and the river, they are very free, as soon as you have climbed a few levels. Some buildings benefit therefore from this situation (for example, the library offers a view over Nancy, at the entrance of the district).
The proximity of the water also implies the development of a vegetation, which is specific to the banks. It is preserved thank to the transversal openings, that also acts as valleys that return the water back to the river.
In addition to its geographical properties, the site is also distinguished by its history, and notably by the construction in the 1950’ of the workshops of the designer Jean Prouvé. The buildings from that time, that are still existing, are preserved, and the main square, in the middle of the island, returns in this project, to its initial configuration.
In the urban organization of the design, each transversal opening is associated to a public space (square) and a public building (library, museum, design school, child-care center…). Thus, these places become attractive centers and not just cuts in the urban fabric.
Beside these public facilities, a special reflexion has been also led on the dwellings, particularly about the views and the intimacy. Wherever it was possible, the objective was to privilege the views on the river or of the distant landscape. However, when the public space is too close to the houses (publics banks for example), working on the level of the different floors, made it possible to preserve the intimacy of the inhabitants.
Located at the south extremity of the island, the library is a «bridge-building», that acts as a big porch at the entrance of the district. The objective was also to take advantage of the view of the city, which is there particularly unobstructed. The inner organization of the building is based on a path that leads the visitor across the library, alternating the sights on both sides, and that eventually frames the view over Nancy.
The building is organized as a 9 squares grid, with a big central void (atrium). Like the library, the idea of the path is at the origin of the design. It begins outside, with the footbridge that links the school to the main square. It continues then around the central void, like an upward spiral (at each step, a double height makes the following stage visible). The visitors discover thus, as they progress, the lateral open spaces. The path ends at the last level, in an exhibition area, that overhangs the surrounding building and the vegetation.
ENSAN – 5th year (2012-2013)
Teacher : L. Beaudouin