February 13, 2012
*all images courtesy of Architectural record
Architects have always looked for ways to help the interior spaces of their project reflect on the outside, and vice versa. Well, architects Jakob + MacFarlane have seemed to do so in this Denver architect's opinion.
The Orange Cube, located in Lyons, France is a commercial building situated in a former dockland. Perched on the river's edge, the 67,640 square foot building is surrounded by mostly gray, modern architecture. Its orange hue in this context is the life of the party.
Lyons is one of the most progressive industrial centers in the 19th century, but has become fairly subdued in recent decades. In an effort to boost its cosmopolitan character it opened Cite Internationale in the 1990's, a 37-acre mixed-use project by Renzo Piano. The renovation of the warehouse harbor area is where the Orange Cube has found its home.
The cube is exactly that, a box. But what makes it so interesting are the piercings of the exterior skin. These voids are negative space that was part of the design requirements. Jakob + MacFarlane won the competition in 2006, their solution a cube with three large voids oriented to the river, providing interest to a seemingly simple solution.
The confluence of the Saone and Rhone rivers here in the Lyon Confluence district is symbolically represented in the Orange Cube with the two of its three voids. One drops down from the roof, the other angles up from the river. They converge at the center of the building, creating a four-story atrium and a dialogue with the river, almost allowing it to flow inside. Within this negative space are balconies with incredible views. This void allows ample daylight into the facility and channels hot air to a rooftop opening, lowering energy costs.
The third void is in the cube's southwest corner and connects with a promenade and the neighborhood. This voids curvature responds to the undulating arched roof of nearby structures.
The structure is a faceted poured-in-place concrete frame that supports an exterior skin that consists of a curtain wall system sheathed in a perforated aluminum screen. A 10-inch gap separates the two skins. The screen's pattern is based on the movement of water, and the color refers to the site's historical context. Orange safety paint is often used in industrial areas.
The ground floor and mezzanine currently house a 9,690 square foot furniture showroom. It's a loft-like space that includes a dramatic, 184 foot long display wall with various shaped holes that make reference to the building's exterior skin.
Without a doubt, the Orange Cube adds an incredible amount of interest to the confluence district with its eye-catching color and perforated metal skin. In addition to all of the already mentioned aspects of the voids, they also point to the history of the site; for many years this harbor area has been devoid of life, a hole in the fabric of the city. The Orange Cube has effectively begun to fill that void. And, this year Jakob + MacFarlane will start construction on another building in the area, the 107,000 square foot headquarters for Euronews.