The EDF learning center is located at the Saclay plateau in southern Paris. It is intended to welcome some of the 160,000 employees of the electricity generating utility for a stay of one to five days as part of their continuing in house on the job learning. This retreat on the Saclay plateau, sometimes far from an employee’s usual place of work, is an opportunity for staff to learn and train, but also to meet, exchange and re-energize themselves in order to consolidate a common culture.
On top of the spaces reserved for learning courses there are reception areas, social life gathering spaces, relaxing lounges and even bedrooms: a variety of programs that together contribute to the exceptional chronotopy of an atypical 24 hours per day operation. The idea of an American style campus is reinterpreted here vertically in this unitary building that is bringing people together in multi-functional spaces which is highly ambitious in terms of getting people to mix with others with dense, proven corollary.
From melting pot to social hierarchy
The EDF campus has just been set up on the Saclay plateau in Palaiseau, in the same neighborhood as the prestigious École polytechnique.
The prize winning ECDM proposition is marked out from others by the way it is programme is distributed vertically rather than by its plan horizontally. The program interweaves in superimposed layers to develop in a compact volume that absorbs the density of the programming without extending over the surrounding landscape. The space is graded from the bottom to the top to go from the public to the intimate in a parallelepiped volume dug out of a central patio. Only the exhibition hall which stands at the entrance of the forecourt and the training hall at the rear are separate from this.
The facades of the building reveal the program which is divided into three layers distinguished by their covering (concrete + stainless steel, glass, concrete) but also by the rhythm of their piercing which forms a motif of identity, the real thread of the project. The formation stages of the elongated windows are extremely fine frame and are combined with brown Ductal® concrete. The same high-performance fiber of reinforced concrete surrounds the some 270 rooms that span the top two levels. Following a rigorous thread of 1.35 meters, the facades incline according to the typology of the program. In this way another of the strong ideas in the project, its pattern, is revealed.
Between these two layers of concrete, a pleated glass panel marks a transition from public to private to the intermediate level which houses the restaurant and relaxation areas.
At the foot of the building, two other materials, stainless steel and glass, are grafted to these three strata to envelop the technical hall at the back, the showroom at the front and the entrance to the building.These two excrescences invite visitors to enter the public spaces of the central volume, while reflecting their environment in a kaleidoscope of shapes, landscapes and bodies, whose kinetic iridescence is a nod and wink to the neighbor EDF’s research and development center whose circular walls are glazed.
Landscape within a landscape
Nature, sky, light spread out as far as the eye can see. Welcome to Saclay plateau and the EDF campus, which enjoys a privileged position on the edge of the École polytechnique district. So which is the best way to manage all this abundance while at the same time avoiding a sense of overkill. The ecdm project puts this landscape on a kind of stage, organizes its appearance and its disappearance by framed views, panoramas, masks — with so many sequences it becomes a kind of show in perpetual transition. This work on the landscape was carried out with Pascal Cribier whose shared garden with the learning center and the EDF Lab is one of his latest achievements.
Made to measure building
The EDF campus is part of a long line of industrial buildings in the avant-garde tradition of EDF. It is the result of research conducted with the industrialist Lafarge Holcim on prefabrication processes and in particular the projection of its flagship material, Ductal®.
It invokes other industrial processes implemented by ecdm in previous works, such as cushioned concrete or even furniture and carpentry products developed made to measure and then entered in the catalog of suppliers.
Location: 13 boulevard Gaspard-Monge, Plateau de Saclay, France
Area: 26,000 sqm
Photographs: Jérémy Bernier