The main challenges of the project
The challenges were twofold. The first was to move 5,500 people from La Défense to Val-de-Fontenay, for Société Générale. This represented a built area of 100,000 m² on a plot of only 23,000 m². The second was to propose a programme for an international competition that would innovate without defining the content precisely.
I preferred a horizontal layout to the vertical towers of La Défense, which was more likely to address the managerial determination to innovate.
In this horizontal layout, I had two possible solutions: either a square building fitting within the plot’s boundaries with a square courtyard, or the one that I chose with three parallel lines running east to west that stop at the land’s boundaries. 3 waves roughly 35 metres in height by 160 metres in length.
The urban area had neither start nor finish, allowing me to create a landscape building and make up for the shortcomings of the shape of the urban surroundings. I created a piece of landscape opening onto the surrounding land.
I established a horizontal layout alternating full and empty spaces, between a built and landscape scale, connected by a large ground floor covering the whole of the plot pierced and lit by large patios.
Once the competition had been won, this grid of available spaces allowed me to define the content of the programme precisely, in line with the managerial innovation goals of Françoise Mercadal Delasalles and the building innovation objectives of Jean-Marc Castaignon.
The challenge was also architectural. It meant providing a qualitative alternative to the mundane cheerless offices that have been built for decades, and breaking cleanly away from the American Apple and Google type models, through the use of smart layouts and economic resources.