Walk the Walk: Studios Architecture Designs Bouygues Immobilier’s Paris Headquarters
For a visitor approaching real-estate developer Bouygues Immobilier’s headquarters—the cornerstone of a 6-acre commercial complex that Atelier Christian de Portzamparc designed for Bouygues Immobilier in the Paris suburb of Issy-les-Moulineaux—the entrance looms like the prow of a gargantuan futuristic ocean liner sheathed in translucent glass. Continuing the marine theme, the eight-story structure’s highly unusual shape, a rounded triangle with curving sides, is thought to resemble a beach pebble, or galet. The building is named Galeo accordingly.
Working inside a Pritzker Architecture Prize winner’s design for a building-industry client was a formidable challenge for Studios Architecture, led by principal Pierre Pastellas and associate principal Gary Tschirhart. “Expectations were pretty high,” Tschirhart says. “And we were limited by a facade that curves inward at the top. There are almost no straight walls anywhere.” Moreover, Bouygues Immobilier asked for an innovative workplace that would reflect the corporate image, notably the company’s commitment to environmental responsibility. Everything was aimed at qualifying for Haute Qualité Environmentale certification, the equivalent of LEED—from cold-beam cooling throughout to daylighting in stairwells, meant to encourage people to bypass the elevators as often as possible.
Eco-consciousness gave rise to the 57,000-square-foot project’s two complementary themes. First, Pastellas says, “We used the symbolic structure of a tree rising through the lower floors and branching out at the top.” Representing the trunk, the mechanical core and elevator bank are encircled by wood slats. On lower floors, the slats are a beech laminate. Those above are oak stained four different shades to imitate the natural striations of a tree, and a radiating canopy stands in for the branches. Second, the scheme makes use of the company’s logo colors, blue and green, even for underground parking. Green, as in the earth, is used for the standard office floors, two through six; blue, as in sky, dominates the executive zone on the top two levels.
Workstations, meeting rooms, and break-out areas are along the window walls on the standard floors. A ring of circulation space separates these perimeter areas from the centrally located “duo” rooms for tête-à-tête meetings—small glass enclosures serigraph-printed with a bamboo pattern nearly opaque at the bottom and partly transparent at the top. Just as with the tree-trunk idea, the bamboo motif speaks the project’s fundamental “vegetal language,” Tschirhart says. Alongside the “duo” rooms, carrels labeled “solo” are equipped with computers and phones. Nearby are printer-copier bays.
On the second floor only, the café straddles the core/perimeter divide, offering a kitchenette in a wide alcove, two long tables, and side chairs with brightly colored beech-plywood seats. Another one-off space is the ground level’s multipurpose room, which can divide in two. The room overall is fairly standard. However, in a slightly surreal touch, the floor-to-ceiling windows looking onto the street are covered with transparent images of the building’s own facade.
Window walls up in the spectacular double-height executive zone curve inward to meet above the central mezzanine, casting a grid of sunlight and shadow on the carpet. (Except when the mechanized shades come down.) The main level is largely open-plan with the boardroom at one end, partially sheltered by the overhanging mezzanine. This high-tech facility is dominated by an immense table shaped like an arrowhead to mimic the floor plate as it comes to a point. Glass panels set into the tabletop allow attendees to see the individual LCD screens below. For a cinematic presentation, a much larger flat screen is mounted on a partition that also houses a state-of-the-art sound system. When the meeting breaks for lunch, attendees can proceed directly past the oak-slatted symbolic tree at the core to the Brasserie restaurant, which seats 30 in the main dining room and an additional 20 split between two private rooms.
One flight of steps discreetly connects the boardroom to the mezzanine, but the real showstopper is the freestanding staircase that swirls upward from the restaurant. In either case, the destination is a lounge furnished with conversational seating groups designed to encourage executives to chat more casually about, say, whether to go forward with an urban-planning project in Provence. As colorful leather-upholstered barrel chairs by Jeffrey Bernett swivel to take in a view that stretches all the way to the Eiffel Tower, the effect is less ocean liner, more starship.
Photography by Eric Laignel.
HIDEKAZU MORITANI (LEAD DESIGNER); SYLVIE LEROY; GAEL LAFON; LUIS FARRERAS; PIOTR PACIOREK; TAÏNA PRIMAUX: STUDIOS ARCHITECTURE. SPEEG & MICHEL: LIGHTING CONSULTANT. ACOUSTIQUE & CONSEIL: ACOUSTICAL CONSULTANT. VIDEOLINE: AUDIOVISUAL CONSULTANT. STRUCTURES ILE-DE-FRANCE: STRUCTURAL ENGINEER. SFICA: MECHANICAL, PLUMBING ENGINEER. ABEX: ELECTRICAL ENGINEER. DURIEZ AGENCEMENT: WOODWORK. GROUPE DWG: GLASSWORK. FRAMETO: METALWORK.
MATTEOGRASSI: CHAIRS (BOARDROOM).
KREON: RECESSED CEILING FIXTURES (BOARDROOM), CEILING FIXTURES (LOUNGE).
WESTBOND: CARPET (BOARDROOM, LOUNGE, RESTAURANT).
B&B ITALIA: CHAIRS (LOUNGE).
STEELCASE: WORKSTATIONS (OFFICE AREA).
INTERFACEFLOR: CARPET (OFFICE AREA, HALL, MULTIPURPOSE ROOM).
BOSCHER: CUSTOM SIGNAGE (ENTRY).
ARTEMIDE: PENDANT FIXTURE (MEETING ROOM).
PLEXWOOD: SLATS (CAFÉ).
YAMAKADO: CHAIRS, TABLES (MULTIPURPOSE).
TACCHINI: CHAIRS (RESTAURANT).