A Horizontal Campus
Known as Les Dunes, the new campus built by the banking group Société Générale is strategically located a short distance from the RER railway station in Fontenay-sous-Bois, which has been one of Paris’s most desirable residential suburbs since the 1960s.
The winning entry in the competition held in 2011 was a project by Anne Démians of AAD (Architectures Anne Démians), who is bringing unprecedented sensitivity to workplace architecture with this and other projects. The office complex consists of three waves of horizontal buildings, which now accommodate over 5,000 bank staff, who previously worked in the office towerblocks at La Défense. The project is based on three key concepts: waves, which give a sense of freedom to the site; greenery, including rare species of plants; and wood, the most widely visible material within the complex, which brings disparate elements together and imbues the site with elegance and identity. The functional originality of the project is best expressed in Anne Démians’ own words: «The overall layout draws inspiration from way in which people freely and spontaneously settle in parallel lines by the sea at Salin de Giraud, in the Camargue. They come in caravans and camper vans in April and stay until late October. The result is basically a spontaneous campus that came into being long before the word «campus», in the modern sense, was invented. It’s a spontaneous model of horizontal distribution and social bonding that gave me my inspiration. The general finishing of the buildings, by contrast, came to me when I was looking at the banks and moorings of Canal Grande in Venice. What inspired me most was the beauty with which they have juxtaposed two precious materials — wood and steel — for decades.»
The uniqueness of the new site revolves around the relationship between the work spaces and their extensive distribution, which forms an urban landscape where the undulating roofs of the three main naves generate a coherent sense of movement. It was this feature that prompted one of the bank’s young employees to come up with the name Les Dunes, which was picked as the winning entry in an internal competition held to decide on a name for the site. The complex as a whole is so extensive that you can’t take it all in with a single glance, so it appears to the eye as a living wave of spaces and situations, encompassing work scenes, regenerative gardens, attractive restaurants, transparencies that bring light and depth, and canyons of wood and shade.
As for the communal areas designed for social interaction, Patrick Norguet, a well known French architect first discovered by Giulio Cappellini, was commissioned to design three restaurant and refreshment areas. Given the imposing size of the interiors, the challenge for the architect and designer was to combine and manage the flow of so many people through environments where real needs, such as social interaction, intimacy and comfort during meals, have to be met.
For the floor coverings and part of the wall coverings, Société Générale opted for products by Lea Ceramiche. For the flooring of the self-service area, they chose Metropolis, a concrete-effect tile. For the walls, meanwhile, they used LeaLab, a system for customising any surface by means of digital printing on laminated porcelain tile. The pattern specifically created for this project and printed on Slimtech large-format panels, distinguishes the space with a delicately geometric design. Slimtech, in the Shade Milk version, with a thickness of just 3mm, was also used as a wall covering on the bar counter, whose irregular, geometrically cut angles give it a uniquely sculptural appearance.
Lea Ceramiche, Metropolis collection, Slimtech collection
60x60 cm, 100x300 cm
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): ≤ 0,04%
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): uha, ula resistente
Resistance to deep abrasion (ISO 10545-6): ≤ 145 mm3
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): compliant
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): compliant
Modulus of rupture and breaking strength (ISO 10545-4): ≥ 50 N/mm2
Slip resistance (DIN 51130): r10
Thermal shock resistance (ISO 10545-9): compliant
Linear thermal expansion (ISO 10545-8): compliant