Heritage : Place-making with what is already in place

Linked to the other key ANMA approaches of ecological urbanism and scale based design, the third pillar of ANMA’s tripartite design approach is the redevelopment and renovation of buildings. In a more general sense this is manifested in our commitment to “place-making” through a delicate and yet analytical approach to preexisting built and natural and social contexts. Creating places for living rather than just neutral spaces for existing is key to our approach.

Firstly this is evident in ANMA’s experience in the redevelopment of historic and pre-existing structures. From one of the practice’s first projects, the Halles aux Farines University Hub in Paris, to the National University Library of Strasburg or the Châtenay-Malabry Theatre, our approach to converting, restoring and using historical buildings primarily involves taking into consideration the “Genius Loci” or the inbuilt uniqueness of a structure or context to develop an approach which Nicolas Michelin terms as “Hyper-Contextual”. Hyper context implies integrating a building into a context, using the inherent advantages of existing structures and sites while also taking into consideration ancient water courses and hidden landscaping. Ultra-context looks at both the visible and invisible, using these elements to create the extraordinary.

In the case of the National University Library many of its characteristics were not accessible to the visitor. This building which had been built German reign in the 19th Century, it is an imposing structure with a glass dome at its summit. Previous alterations to the structure had created small and inefficient reading spaces and no visual link to the dome. ANMA’s alteration was simple and underscores the existing advantages of the structure by creating a monumental yet graceful staircase consisting of an airy and light central atrium, while access to lateral reading rooms has been rationalized and clarified.

Our urban planning projects are given the same careful treatment. The Basins à Flots Masterplan and housing developed in Bordeaux sees this old ship building area of the city reborn as a mixed use cultural quarter. Articulating and channeling its industrial and port aesthetics but also using industrial warehouse typologies for the development of experimental housing with shared winter gardens and waterfront access, new ways of living are encouraged in the area: walking, dense living and proximity are encouraged. Pre-existing walkways in the quarter are maintained and developed connecting the city via bicycle paths, walkways and public transport to the rest of the city.

Recognising the challenges of designing and bringing out the feeling of place is key. ANMA’s approach brings out the existing, reveals the invisible and encourages saffinity for place.