This richly-textured mound of earth-inspired brown cement is the recently completed Marne-la-Vallee University Library in Champs sur Marne, one of the suburbs of Paris. Designed by Beckmann-N’Thepe, the building is deeply inspired by its historic site, High House Farm, which dates back to the 17th century. Rolling hills and a scenic water garden provide a picturesque landscape for this characterful new library.
The main bulk of the building is split into two volumes: a basic, rectilinear form using glass and steel at the base and a dark brown cement mass which rest on top where the main reading rooms are located. Aldric Beckmann of Beckmann-N’Thepe details: “The rocky fragment of the library asserts a beauty that comes from harmony and seduction which work subjectively on the viewer who is affected and moved.
“Suspended telluric volume, as though torn out of its natural element, it extends out on the garden side, pierced by projecting golden glass inclusions and patios which bring natural lighting from underneath. Inside, calm and whiteness prevail. Plants here and there create spatial sequences and provide additional visual comfort to the landscape installed.”
Bolts of colour inside the building give a stark contrast to the neutrally-hued exterior, enlivening the building and generating a vibrant space for research and further education. It is the intention of Marne-la-Vallee University to use this new architectural statement to entice new students to the institution, while providing an effective learning space for its existing student base. Beckmann concludes: “Between naturalism and terror, the Marne-la-Vallee Library puts us in touch with our dreams - active, joyous, sometimes disturbing, comforting, but always salutary.”