The buildings of the cultural and community premises of Paris Diderot University fit into the undeveloped, southwest area of the Flour Market which was recently converted by Nicolas Michelin and Associates Agency. A break between the Flour Market and the new building is preserved. It respects the existing building and accentuates the slenderness of the tower. The two, independent buildings coexist completely.
The signal-like extension stands out of its context by means of its evolving shape. It is a sensitive, delicate object, treated simply to avoid rivalry with the strong presence of the Flour Market. On the contrary it acts as a light, gravitational counterpoint. An architectural dialectic and emulation come into play much like a castle and its keep, both intrinsically inseparable.
The area left for the conception of the building was about 20m x7m, and were allowed to reach a nice height so we used that height at most.
The Voltaire building had to be in extension of the Flour Market building renewed in 2009 by Nicolas Michelin architect. Nicolas Michelin imagined the renew as a “boat in the bottle” meaning he wanted to keep as possible Flour Market building’s appearance as it was before his contribution. Our purpose was exactly the opposite, we wanted the “boat out(side) of the bottle” so we designed the Voltaire building very close, but without touching the Flour Market except for the small access ramps at the three first levels. The aspect of the new building is also in opposite of the 1950 flour market, it’s a light monolithic diaphanous object, it reflects the lights and shadows, a slight curve brings a feminine sensual dimension, and opens even more the set of light , by swallowing the environment it disappears and clearly appears at the same time.
The Voltaire building is the organ that the flour market was missing, like a boat without sails.