January 30, 2013

Contemporary music venue at Nîmes Métro

At the eastern approach to Nîmes, on the Remoulins and Avignon road, between town and country, motorway and suburbs, aerodrome and hills, the new contemporary music venue is going to magnetize the citizens of Nîmes, Marseilles, Avignon, Montpellier and Arles, with its striking architecture, a concentration of manifest energy. First amongst the performances that take place here, it mesmerizes the passer-by with the dynamism of its dramatic forms and immerses the spectator in a sculptural and colourful universe spread out beneath its angular shell.

Crossing universal and local boundaries, Paloma’s architecture is also a sophisticated piece of engineering, with quarter tone practicalities for the delivery of the material to the performance, the live TV recording, the artist show case residence, ‘everything runs smoothly’ at all times.

metro resembles a concentration of the South and its music: so alluring, deeply sensual, perfectly skilled and ‘exhilaratingly’ laid-back

Triangular tensions and erupting forces: a telluric power seems to inhabit Paloma metro, wanting to get out, stretching the walls, distending the structure, cracking the skin, tearing the membrane apart, swallowing the no man’s land of the square and taking over the world with its giant’s eye.

The interior softens the sensation without contradicting it: it is a magnificent celebration in vision as well as something of extreme intensity. The bullfighter is evoked, in his formalities, his protocols and his colours, the rituals and improvised killing and the triumphs.

Paloma metro unmasks the analogy as much as it brings it to life: the walls of the big hall are clad in a thick protective coat evoking that of the Picador’s horse, the seats reconstruct the coloured pattern of the crowd in the arena, the banderilla pierce the sides of the patio, the yellow and purple of the muleta wash the interior spaces, the walls come to life with a series of gestures which illustrate the perfect geometry of the bullfighter’s movements.

And, just as in the arena, the action alternately crosses over dark and light spaces, extreme fear and sublime relief.

Galvanizing the suburbs

Just like the ‘feria’ in the historical district, this building electrifies the outskirts of the town. It is a vibrant landmark in the indeterminate nature of the suburban territory, between the flat vastness of the aerodrome beyond which the ants’ trail of the Languedoc motorway unwinds, together with the sprinkling of commercial businesses where the modern world retails its gates, swimming pools, cars, windows… the emptiness of an existing mythical national road reduced to a simple transit track between the centre and the outskirts, and a broken line of housing wavering between barricaded individuality and a gesture of collectivity.

Paloma, with its power, its personality, its originality and its capacity to unite and bring together, gives this urban margin its life force back. With all the strength of its slender triangles it seems to want to deliver a resounding punch to the indeterminate nature of the outlying districts, to unite them, to bring them back to life and to town.

a touch of Franck Zappa

Such a star, Paloma is a concentration of mythical images, indispensable memories, a combination of perplexing, inspired ideas to create the feeling of total freedom and continuous improvisation disguising extreme discipline.

The architecture has its own references, from the structures overhanging the banks of the Meuse by Claude Parent and Paul Virilio to outline the Charleville-Mézières cultural centre at the heart of the 1960s, to the unending search for the lightness of the materials associated with engineers such as Jean Prouvé or Peter Rice. The entrances devised by Jean Nouvel, compressing the space by their low height in order to quickly release that space into the scale of the foyer, the stripes, scarifications, mouldings, engravings illustrating an ongoing work on the skin of the edifices. The origami used to form the stairs links two levels of a Nantes furniture design shop to the complex geometric forms developed by international architects at the beginning of the 21st century, not forgetting the jambs which support the balcony of the big hall, evoking those used by Gaudi in many structures that are examples of Catalan Art Nouveau.

It also makes use of a long relationship with abstract sculpture, matching the town sculpture projects of the artists in the 1960s and 1970s by the creation of a mega sculpture on an urban scale, to the tight lines and multiple facets which fit into each other to create an entrance, and straighten up to give way to glass windows illuminating a collective space, protecting a full crowd in an allegory of primitive shelter.

Constructed in the country of the Support-Surface creators, it flaunts the colours (the purple and yellow of a Viala observer of bullfighters) and the obsessive repetition of a simple design being systematically applied to a surface (diagonal stripes on the sides of the patio, the alternative white and blue paving stones of the floors and ceilings on the first floor). As with the furniture set out in some of the spaces its origin is in the sixties: it also draws on the visual effects used by Yaacov Agam to animate the vertical lines – which change depending upon where the observer is standing – the flamboyant style of the small hall which has been given the name of The Club: it combines simple squares in ten sparkling colours to identify some of the collective spaces: it gorges on the geometry of the abstract visual artists for the decor in the large recording studio and the sound recording cabin: it opens out the monochrome areas of the linking foyers like a young sculpture would do.
Sounds and images have a rich common past: the walls of the big hall have even more life in them when adorned with striking motifs which reverberate like the gears in ‘La Bête Humaine’ (a film by Jean Renoir), the mechanics of Chaplin’s Modern Times or the machines of Konrad Klapheck.

Photography: Stéphane Chalmeau
Architect: TETRARC

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