«BELAROIA»: OCCITAN FOR JEWEL
The French architectural bureau MANUELLE GAUTRAND ARCHITECTURE presented to us its new facility, commissioned a little more than a month ago.
This is an important project for the City of Montpellier and its development agency, the SERM, as it holds a strategic position between the city’s hyper-centre,
characterised by its escutcheon form in plan, and new surrounding districts that have appeared in succession.
Its particular position is in fact on the prow of the Nouveau Saint-Roch development zone, and the fi rst of the zone’s projects to be completed. To characterise this
zone, the city highlighted the importance of a diversity of programmes, which our team interpreted as a hybrid project, interweaving two hotels, apartments, a
seminar venue and an independent restaurant.
The site is right opposite Montpellier’s central Gare Saint Roch train station, and the BELAROIA is the fi rst building you see as you come out of the station. The
north terraces of the station overlook the project.
The small site led us to stack up the functions, literally one on top of another, sharing some of the vertical circulation between different elements of the
programme. The complex triangular form of the site led us to design a continuous volume with a succession of folds that unfurl along the north and the east facades, topped by a wide bridge along the south facade.
At the middle of these folds is set a large hollow volume, orientated to the south and sheltered by the bridge that overhangs it. This magnifi cent conch shelllike
form is an extra element, a meeting place for all the users of the different programmes, a café with a terrace looking out over the train station, which faces
In this particular project, the almost immediate aim was to create, to orchestrate, and to provide an external space for all the building’s users, from each of the different programmes but also from the entire neighbourhood: a neighbourhood characterised by the station and its thoroughfare, by the nearby historic city centre, and by the future programmes that will gradually appear within the development zone.
Providing this majestic communal space was a way of giving a magnifi cent ‘shared’ urban room in the very fi rst building constructed in the development zone, a way of positioning the level of engagement and ambition of this new neighbourhood.
Stretching and densifying a city does not happen without a trade-off, without providing, in compensation for space taken, new public places
that constitute landmarks, places for meeting and amenities.
Our urban living room is the fi rst room of the project, a great unifying void around which all our solids will wrap, sitting on a podium that houses all
the entrances, it is then surrounded by the two hotels and overlooked by the apartments which crown it. It becomes a sort of urban stage, framed by animated wings (the hotel rooms): it is the starting point and the heart of the whole project.
Around this void the solids are successively distributed on the site, successively defi ning the various surfaces of the void, including that of its roof, to create a half-indoor, half-outdoor space protected from the wind and rain, an open stage fanning out on the southern side, addressing the midday sun and the station.
The programme is both simple and rich: the breakfast room of the 4-star hotel, a place for eating at any time of day and a fantastic bar in the evening, lit up by the giant luminous letters of BELAROIA.
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Photo: Luc Boegly, Julien Thomazo