French telecom group Orange’s new HQ in Lyon open to the city, daylight and fresh air

Two French architectural firms build two new buildings as they extend and renovate the Lacassagne telephone exchange, with the folding geometry and truncated slopes shaping views.

by STIRworld Published on : Dec 05, 2020

Orange, a French multinational telecommunications corporation based in Lyon, has now got a new campus built by Hardel Le Bihan Architects and HGA-Hubert Godet Architects. The new regional headquarters is an extension and renovation of an old telephone exchange. Located in the Part-Dieu district of Lyon, it is part of the Orange group’s technical heritage and was built by André Gutton in 1972. The new building incorporates the historical building as part of an operation with the purpose to unite the regional staff of central-eastern France and is estimated to accommodate 2,000 people.

Being positioned on the south-western edge of the district, the development accomplished to create a powerful landmark as part of the renovation. It achieves a strong presence and respects the visual continuity of the original building from the train tracks and the wider landscape. These measurements fall in line with the urban renewal plans for the Part-Dieu district established by the AUC.

The two new buildings envelope the historical building in sloping massing| Orange Campus | Hardel Le Bihan Architects and HGA-Hubert Godet Architects | STIRworld
The two new buildings envelope the historical building in sloping massing Image: Courtesy of Schnepp Renou

The Orange campus consists of two extensions characterised by sloping massing, which place the emblematic Telephone Exchange building at the centre of the campus. It does so by enveloping it along its north-eastern and south-western sides. Furthermore, the connection between the three buildings is provided by the agora, which acts as a broad internal street running across through the ground floor of the exchange and footbridges on the upper floors.

  • The connection between the three buildings runs across the agora on the ground floor and footbridges on the upper floors | Orange Campus | Hardel Le Bihan Architects and HGA-Hubert Godet Architects | STIRworld
    The connection between the three buildings runs across the agora on the ground floor and footbridges on the upper floors Image: Courtesy of Schnepp Renou
  • The atrium mediates the connection across the workplace | Orange Campus | Hardel Le Bihan Architects and HGA-Hubert Godet Architects | STIRworld
    The atrium mediates the connection across the workplace Image: Courtesy of Schnepp Renou

The underlying intention behind the agora’s design was more than just a circulation space, as Elodie Vuarchet from HGA explains, “The agora is a place for life, for exchange and socialising. Its seven metre ceiling height makes it possible to install events spaces for public receptions, a showroom, an auditorium, but also several meeting rooms, the cafeteria, the concierge, all of these spaces are visually connected with the garden on the ground floor”.

The simplicity behind the geometry of the new extensions responds to the predominant urban features of the context | Orange Campus | Hardel Le Bihan Architects and HGA-Hubert Godet Architects | STIRworld
The simplicity behind the geometry of the new extensions responds to the predominant urban features of the context Image: Courtesy of Schnepp Renou

The new extensions offer coherence between the new and existing constructions on site and in the immediate neighbourhood. They are characterised by truncated slopes and geometric simplicity. The slopes provide views to the historic exchange, while incorporating large planted terraces extending the office spaces. These in turn nurture new ways of approaching the design of the workspace, one in contact with nature, the city and the horizon.

The sloping massing extends the office space by accommodating planted terraces | Orange Campus | Hardel Le Bihan Architects and HGA-Hubert Godet Architects | STIRworld
The sloping massing extends the office space by accommodating planted terraces Image: Courtesy of Schnepp Renou

“The more work methods turn to digital and digital connectivity, the more people need quality physical interactions. This is why we have given so much importance to the spaces used every day by the workers around and beyond their workstations,” adds Cyrille Le Bihan from Hardel Le Bihan Architectes.

A great emphasis has been placed on the distribution of the workspaces in accordance with the daylight sources, direct sunlight and open views out from and towards the site. The well-being of its users is further encouraged by circulation and workspaces designed to foster exchange and collaboration between them.

The copper coloured power-coated aluminium resonates with the brick envelope of the telephone exchange | Orange Campus | Hardel Le Bihan Architects and HGA-Hubert Godet Architects | STIRworld
The copper coloured power-coated aluminium resonates with the brick envelope of the telephone exchange Image: Courtesy of Schnepp Renou

Comfort openings in each grid ensure natural ventilation while externally insulated concrete structure allows for thermal inertia. A hydraulic distribution system within the buildings provides the users the benefit of thermal comfort throughout the year.

In regards to the materials chosen for the façade, the architects opted to accentuate the play of rhythm and light, encouraging a more insightful response to the historical characteristics of the site. The copper-coloured power-coated aluminium resonates with the brick envelope of the telephone exchange, making itself seen behind its concrete exoskeleton.

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