NANCY – In the wake of what she perceives as ‘ready-to-wear’ architecture, Anne Démians boasts a commitment to the haute couture. It might be difficult at first to read this metaphor in her firm’s latest endeavour, Quai Ouest. The porous, Space Age new-build fills the site of a former gasworks plant along the banks of the Meurthe in Nancy and sits just down the street from an 18th-century UNESCO heritage site, the Place Stanislas.
The commissioner and main tenant of this mixed-use facility, Pertuy Construction, sought to combine Nancy’s revered history of architectural creativity with the sustainability of a modern structure. A unified volume curves around an outdoor court and tapers up clockwise in height to meet the roof lines of the adjacent buildings at each end. Stainless steel clads the exterior, which is punctured in paired rows of ovals. Each tier of these windows has been aligned with the open-plan interior such that the upper admits light while the lower offers views of the surrounding sprawl.
While reducing the building’s energy consumption, the shell is also a nod to the aesthetic of one of the city’s most influential designers and public figures, Jean Prouvé. However, the walls break with the format of this predecessor, bowing inward toward the top – almost as if a traditional, gabled rise has been wrapped in tinfoil. The windows along the outside faces have additionally been adorned with shades fashioned after eyelids. Asserting its own politics of vision, the imposing spectacle stares back.