Blurring the boundaries

Tuesday 31 Jan 2012

Joly & Loiret create a landscape-building that follows the natural forms of the site

Joly & Loiret’s horse eventing arena located at the heart of the forest of Fontainebleau sits effortlessly within the natural landscape. The architects have tried to invent a real architecture-landscape, where boundaries between definitions blur and merge to create an appropriate intervention. The result is a continuity of the natural landscape, rather than a building in the usual sense of the word. The edges of the project envelope are undefined, allowing a functional, conceptual and formal continuity of space.

A key part of this relationship with the landscape is a pedestrian circuit leading around the whole of the site. This circuit is a public walkway, punctuated with elements of both the equestrian centre and the forest. Beginning at the entrance, the pathway crosses the exhibitors area before climbing gently up to the top of the roof of the building, giving visitors plunging panoramic views over the arenas. Descending from the roof, this boardwalk becomes a grand staircase that steps down through the levels of wooden terraces returning the visitor to the main entrance at the bottom.

The project comprises a total redevelopment of the site (25 hectares), the construction of a new main building, and a number of ancillary buildings. The building section takes its shape from the angle of the south facing sloped façade, the line of the rooftop boardwalk and the north facing side cut into by its tiered seating.

Inside, most of the restaurant and work spaces benefit from dual orientation. On the north side, windows for the rooms occupied by event officials and venue management have been conceived to frame views of the ‘grand parquet’ arena and/or to bring in additional natural daylighting. The glazed façade of the restaurant reveals a panorama of the grand parquet and in the summer, opens directly onto the exterior terrace. The judges room projects forward giving them a privileged view over the arena.

The project divides the building into three distinct areas; each is autonomous with its own discreet entrance. These three areas are separated by two large passages that lead through the building from the entrance zone towards the stands. The autonomy of these three spaces allows the site to flexibly accommodate a variety of uses.

Environmentally sustainable solutions include the re-use of excavated material to create terraced areas, the use of planted trellis as solar protection for south facing façade, the installation of stormwater infiltration basins and the use of thermal inertia and a double skin ventilated façade (tiered seating on the roof and façade) to keep the building cool in summer, with additional natural ventilation.

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