At the edge of the Moine River and just a stone’s throw from the city centre of Cholet, the Espace Saint-Louis houses a music and performing arts conservatory built in 2002, along with a theatre and auditorium that were added ten years later.
Through its integration of contemporary elements into an old, renovated hospital building, the Espace Saint-Louis plays with its topography and uses programmatic elements to present an abstract, decidedly contemporary image. The former hospital building, which forms part of Cholet’s ZPPAUP heritage protection area, was renovated and restructured to host the roughly 950 students at this conservatory. The steep incline of the terrain down towards the Moine River was used to create rooms in the lower portion of the building, which have been inserted between the wings that have been preserved. Similarly, the double-height lobby connects the old building and its extension. Housed in a volume of light-coloured, undulating walls, the theatre represents a visible landmark for the city.
Occupying the former hospital of the same name, itself a conversion of the erstwhile Cordeliers Convent, this facility has augmented Cholet’s architectural heritage, serving as a prime example of the city’s forward-thinking cultural initiatives.
A granite plinth creates a facade that extends the original building’s base and the low stone walls of the Mail Garden.
Inserted into the original, M-shaped building, copper-clad volumes give the large rehearsal spaces their own, unique identity: this brown box hosts a concert hall and a choir space, while the green box contains two dance studios.
The double-height lobby is nestled between the old building and the extension.
The steep incline of the terrain down to the Moine River was used to benefit the circulations in particular. Thus, the lobby at the entrance on the upper square extends the conservatory’s lobby, ultimately forming a balcony over the main lobby, which looks onto the oval-shaped, sloped volume of the theatre.
The 842-seat theatre is covered with a textured wooden cladding. The ceiling extends over the stage in the form of a mobile bandshell.
The enveloping, curved configuration of the theatre creates an optimal relationship between stage and audience, with a maximum distance of 25 metres). An orchestra pit and bandshell have been adapted to the large shapes and the choir spaces.
The restored nineteenth-century chapel now houses a 185-seat auditorium.