In Venarey-les-Laumes, hatchback assembly by Dominique Coulon

@Dominique Coulon

For this last reconnaissance, the followers set off on stage 8, 176 km long, between Semur-en-Auxois (Côte-d’Or) and Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises (Haute-Marne). A stopover for punchers and adventurers who will take advantage of their winter preparation to delight the gallery before arriving at the General and Aunt Yvonne’s house. The Tour passed in 1960 for the first time in this legendary city, the riders then had the pleasure of seeing the silhouette of Charles de Gaulle coming to greet them along the road.

A stone’s throw from the departure in Venarey-les-Laumes, in Burgundy, to discover a complex project nestled in a singular building designed by Dominique Coulon and delivered in 2015. This dense and heterogeneous program – Art and conference center, Intergenerational Center and Tourist Office, no less – is installed along a railway line.

The work offers, as is often the case with Dominique Coulon, a twisting volume which brings together all the constituent parts within a chiseled and folded envelope. The project favors uniqueness to harmonize the whole through two sequences of volumes, the first on the ground slightly fragmented, the second on the upper floor floating in the sky. Which, to find land lost by the influence of the program, accommodates a suspended crèche and a single-storey program organized around vast protected and colorful outdoor spaces. “ A bright yellow courtyard is an extension of the nursery spaces. This was to protect these places exposed to the strong nuisances of passing freight trains and TGVs. », specifies the architect.

Venarey-les-Laumes
@Dominique Coulon
Art and convention center
@Dominique Coulon

This two-body assemblage, both massive and airy, unitary and fragmented, dark and colorful, matte and shiny, creates a complexity of language that is very appropriate. Dominique Coulon’s work explores these multiple components in each project, rarely renouncing multiplicity and complexity. There is a form of anachronism in this approach, which grows over time, part of an era marked by gray, hemp, finger-jointed wood, galvanized sheet metal, and prosaic concrete. The architect, in a certain way, stands out in the landscape of French excellence. There is an unfeigned and shared pleasure in creating generous spaces. The simple reading of a French architecture magazine is awakened by the discovery of one of its projects when we thought after many pages that printing in gray level would end up finishing us.

The high prismatic volume is animated by facets which play with grazing light and offer a changing image of the building during the day. They are pierced with triangles dotted in a seemingly random manner, as the designer explains: “ Opaque skin, slightly pierced, is broken down into as many triangles, sometimes matte, sometimes shiny, which deconstruct the basic volumes “, he said.

The base, connected to the square, fragments and offers either solids or voids, or internalized views or framings. Judiciously covered by the high level, it effectively manages its access and framing. “ The transparencies on the ground floor are organized so that the relationship with the railway tracks is constant and taken as a dynamic event », explains the designer who stages this unique urban landscape.

The composition of the ground floor articulates all of the project’s programs with the exception of the nursery nestled upstairs. As is often the case, the plan and section at Dominique Coulon are the result of a mischievous and clever interweaving. Current purists of the framework and geometry with two variables, zero or ninety degrees, must turn their eyes at the sight of spatial work by carefully examining their drawing board to imagine that this kind of graduated semi-circle allows you to rotate the square. Like Jim Carrey opening the door into the painted sky of the Truman Show set, they discover that another world is possible.

This apparent formal complexity serves a permanent composition in volume and interconnection. The large double-height volumes of the conference hall disappear into the composition and interact with the high volume of the nursery, oblique low-angle views showing the color of its patios in the spaces dedicated to the public. The purpose of the articulation work is not for the scholarly visitor to be ecstatic at the respect of a framework but rather for everyone to discover sensitive spaces. “ Offer children fun places that are endearing, where light appeals to them », summarizes Dominique Coulon.

Venarey-les-Laumes
@Dominique Coulon

The architect speaks rarely and does not seem dedicated to being on a permanent speaking tour. The explanations are concise, learned, modest and dreamlike. No need for fifteen minutes to explain that this sheet metal from the Arcelor catalog is not cladding but cladding. You have to see him talk about the “dripping” concrete at the Belfort conservatory. “ The concrete is there, but at the same time there is this strangeness which is given by the texture » he said simply, without emphasis, with the calm of someone who, with his team, took the time to embrace all the constraints to build the promise given.

His Venarey-les-Laumes project, like all the others, stands out for the precision of the implementation which at first glance forms a precise and ambitious whole and which, on second reading, demonstrates careful use of financial resources. The effects generating atmospheres are often made with few resources compared to the atmosphere produced. A break in the materiality of the ground, legible geometries from which we perceive the excellence of the execution drawing since everything always ends up arriving in the right place, colors which harmonize, etc. All this without great means in the end, just drawing and precaution but the mastery is everywhere, delightful.

Venarey-les-Laumes
@Dominique Coulon

This year’s recognitions, before the big departure on June 29, therefore end here with this singular project and representative of the work of this very modest architect ultimately given the extent of his achievements in relation to his media presence. A Thibault Pinod of French architecture, generous and without fuss.

On the road to Colombey-Les-Deux-Eglises, the follower wonders about this unique journey which combines complexity and mastery, qualities anachronistic with the times. Dominique Coulon does not summarize the details of the management of his absence as is often the case now. He has a taste for drawing, the detail is not the management of an interface, it is not seen, does not show itself as such, it is a part of a large sum, each of them participating to the overall strategy. It’s architecture made the way the General loved gastronomy: “ dthe frank dishes of the collar where we see what we eat », said the great man.

At Dominique Coulon we see what we feel without the need for a two-hour conference to understand who knows what fruitful, sustainable and frugal approach. Dominique Coulon demonstrates his point through reality, not the other way around, most certainly installing his architecture much more in the city than any good-natured academicism would do.

Art and convention center
@Dominique Coulon

To celebrate this journey, a beautiful bottle of champagne from the Drappier house is opened in homage to the General who looked at these vines from his home and to the health of Dominique Coulon for the pleasure he transmits in the reality he constructs.

Guillaume Girod (in recognition)

* The 2024 Tour de France will start from Florence in Italy on Saturday June 29 and arrive in Nice on Sunday July 21. As the teams of riders recognize the stages beforehand, the followers of the contemporary Tour de France Architecture Chroniclesfor their seventh participation, are now doing the same.
For followers, find:
– All Stage Recognitions of the Contemporary Tour de France 2024
– All stages of the 2023 Contemporary Tour de France
– All Stage Recognitions of the Contemporary Tour de France 2023
– All stages of the 2022 Contemporary Tour de France

– All Stage Recognitions of the Contemporary Tour de France 2022
– All stages of the 2021 Contemporary Tour de France.
– The contemporary Tour de France 2020: The start; The following ; The sequel to the sequel; The arrival.
– The Contemporary Tour de France 2019: 1st week; 2nd week; 3rd week.
– The contemporary Tour de France 2018

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