Heavy restructuring was needed to install university facilities for Paris VII University in this reinforced concrete corn exchange built in 1950. Despite this, the original internal volume of the building has been preserved, the original structure provides the principle architectural gesture of the project. ANMA’s project serves to underscore its qualities and provide novel and flexible teaching spaces.
The new structure therefore retains its lofty ceilings, vaulted reinforced concrete shell and skeleton façades, wrapping the structure in huge prefabricated concrete panels. The central bay was entirely emptied to make way for the lecture theatres leaving no trace of intermediary load-bearing points. These back-to-back teaching pods, which sit inside the existing envelope like ships in a bottle compose a linear form that is independent of the overarching structure. The voids between these pods and the concrete shell beneath the vaulted ceiling give an impression of space, despite the restrictions of the concrete shell and the ambition of the programme. Computer cabins have been built for students on the upper level of the structure, up in the eaves of this hall space. The creation of glazed roofing ensures overhead daylight and helps to enhance the canopy, which is visible from the fourth floor. The circulation areas are organised so as to distinguish and separate the student flows: the tutorial rooms in the lateral structures are accessed via linear circulations on the existing floor levels while the lecture theatres in the central volume can be reached via platforms built at each half level. Some classrooms are double height while the use of glass brick partitions allows indirect daylight into the circulation areas, which span two or three levels. All levels can be accessed by four large open staircases. On the ground level, two large double-height passages treated as cross-halls connect the Esplanade des Grands Moulins to the other university buildings further east.
Externally, the original façades and balconies have been maintained from the original structure. Glass bricks have made way for glazed frames and are protected by sun-screens made of fibre reinforced concrete slats that underscore the overall linear rhythm. The university refectory brings a sleek façade to the riverside façade in the form of a new university restaurant.