RENAULT TECHNOCENTRE LOGISTICS UNIT

The Technocentre is a remarkable industrial project. About 30 kilometres from Paris, on a 370-acre site occupied in part by a former airport, Renault has built a true automotive complex, bringing together in one place all the departments involved in the development of new vehicles. Opened in 1998, this complex, representing an investment of €840M, is the result of a proactive architectural policy: a means of expressing the firm’s identity and affirming its strategy. Sometimes referred to as an incubator of contemporary architecture, the Technocentre mobilised architects who were subsequently encountered in the industrial world, in particular at Air France. In addition to Jean-François Schmit, one can mention Valode & Pistre, Chaix & Morel, Jean-Paul Hamonic and others who would appear, a few years later, among the practices occupying a prominent place in French architectural output.

In 1992, Jean-François Schmit won the competition for the construction of the Technocentre logistics unit. The development encompassed the spare parts warehouse, the maintenance department, the union premises and the mailroom. The building extends on a north-south axis in four distinct elements - offices, workshop, stores, goods inwards/despatch - each brought together in a "bar". Also four in number, these bars are combined side by side to form the whole. This combination of repetition and juxtaposition permitted subsequent expansion of the building. Thus, the form of the building reflects its function, the four identifiable elements corresponding exactly to the processes and activities that they house. During the competition, Jean-François Schmit explained the strategy adopted by analogy with the motherboards used in computers: like them, the building is a baseplate (an empty board) whose immediate environment is connected to the entire site.

However, the logistics unit adopts an expressionist, or even lyrical, form. Very prominent, the claddings signpost the various parts of the scheme. The installation of windows, in vertical or horizontal bands, subdivides the walls into sections, further showcasing the cladding material. The characteristic feature of the building remains the roof, given a cadence by a series of saw-tooth roofs that, where required, transform into canopies. The ripples thus created, inspired by Japanese prints of Hokusai’s Great Wave, establish the continuity of the composition and display a strong fifth facade to the neighbouring offices.

The design was not restricted to the building, but was extended to its surroundings. The landscaping treatment differentiates the vehicle and personnel accesses, exploiting the differences of scale. It extends the composition by juxtaposition, inserting the pedestrian accesses between each bar and allowing small embankments to climb the walls of the offices to the north. By its size and its technical characteristics, the Technocentre logistics unit foreshadows subsequent buildings by Jean-François Schmit for the aviation industry.

PLACE

Guyancourt, France

Date

1995

Client

RENAULT

Partners

Ingédia (BET TCE)

Surface

16 000 m2