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Monday, November 05, 2007

Bus Center RATP

Bus Center RATP in Thiais, France by emmanuel combarel dominique marrec architectes

Surface continuity is an idea ripe with Modernist potential, from the blurring of the distinction and separation between walls, floors, and ceilings, to the ease of maintenance that supposedly comes with a lack of corners. Emmanuel combarel dominique marrec architectes (ecdm) applies that idea to the most unlikeliest of buildings, in their design for Bus Center RATP in Thiais, France.

Notions of dissolution of surfaces and hygiene don't seem to apply in this utilitarian building in this town near Paris, especially as the distinction between road or parking surface and building is relatively clear, and the verticality of the walls seems to predominate, even though asymmetrically-located glazed areas break up the mass of the squarish building. Rather the idea of surface continuity appears to be just that: exploiting a surface and its potential to wrap a building.

In most cases, building exteriors are an assemblage of various materials. For example, a masonry building rarely limits itself to brick; most likely it will also use stone, precast concrete, and even aluminum or another metal, not even considering windows and other glazed areas. In this building, one material predominates: Ductal, a flexible concrete that achieves in one what other materials contribute to with many, namely wall bases, parapets, window sills and returns, and other transitions in surface and plane.

The third image below shows how the material extends beyond the walls of the building, making it appear like the building rises from its site in certain parts. Further, the way the flush windows are treated like cuts in a solid mass and the seamless curve of the parapet, the continuity of surface is remarkable. The architects (knowingly?) used the inherent limitations in the size of the material to create the most subtle of the traditional base-middle-top expression. Achieved with the continuous curves, the seams also create horizontal lines at these three areas. Perhaps the architects weren't willing to ignore all precedent in their application of a new technology.

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