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Montpellier, France
1 of 35

The pierresvives building for the department de l'Herault is the unification of three institutions - the archive, the library and the sports department all housed within a single envelope. It was completed in 2012 and designed by Zaha Hadid Architects. The various components of the building are combined through a single identity when looking at the building as a whole, yet when moving closer the three separately functioning parts become more visible.

Concept and Design

The concept behind the building's design lies in the notion of a tree trunk that has been laid horizontally. The archive is situated at the solid base of the 'trunk' which has a library above it that becomes more porous allowing light to enter. Above these are the offices and the sport department which allow more light again. The 'branches' of the tree are projected vertically of the main trunk, articulating the points of access to each individual program of institutions. This longitudinal division of serviced and servicing spaces is maintained along the full length of pierresvives. The front of the building contains all the public functions of each institution, linked by a linear lobby with an exhibition space in the centre.

Above this connective ground level, the three institutions remain strictly separated, each with its own core for internal vertical circulation. On arrival at the main entrance, visitors are directed from the lobby to the educational spaces of the archives on ground level; or via lifts and escalator to the main public artery on level one. This artery is articulated all along the facades as a recessed glass strip, with the reading rooms of the archive and library being immediately accessible. Central in this artery and therefore located at the heart of the building, are the main public facilities shared between the three institutions: the auditorium and meeting rooms. These important public spaces form the primary central volume of the grand cantilevering canopy above the entrance.

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