As part of its local urban development plan, the Pays des Herbiers federation of municipalities issued a call for tenders in 2023 to build a new library in the city centre on the site of an old movie theatre. The project also comprises the restoration of a neighbouring older house known as “the Lodging”. Our architectural and urban approach consisted of using “what was already there”, all the while seeking to design a building that would radiate beyond its boundaries. The attention to the existing built environment involves factoring in the topography, respecting the surrounding scale of the built environment, and recreating an aligned urban front which helps complete the urban sequence along the rue Neuve. With its mineral quality and by playing with the sense of mass, the project’s style reproduces characteristic traits of vernacular architecture to create a collective social space that is open to the city and which fosters a sense of well-being for its users.
We paid specific attention to the building’s relationship to the adjacent residences and yards to the north and east. The garden creates a buffer between all these buildings and gives readers a beautiful green space within the core of the block that helps restore the site’s natural qualities.
The library entrance sits along the forecourt on the Place Jeanne d’Arc, as does the Digital Centre that has been created within the Lodging, and which is clearly identified to facilitate its autonomous operation outside the library’s regular opening hours.
Made using low-carbon forged concrete and alternating solid facades and surfaces predominated by windows, the staggered volumes manage to control the level of sunshine entering the building and attenuate the visual proximity to neighbouring buildings, all the while asserting the strong identity of this new facility.
The central atrium creates a vast volume that houses the circulation spaces and facilitates visual communication between the various library spaces.