MVRDV has had a busy few weeks, releasing a futuristic scheme for Taipei and a vision for a post-industrial site in Kiel, Germany. Now, the Dutch architecture studio has been handed the responsibility of renovating and expanding the historic Palais du Commerce in Rennes, France. Their 18,000-square-metre redevelopment, conducted alongside co-architects Bernard Desmoulin for developers Frey and Engie Avneue, will restore the local landmark as the centrepiece of the city's main commercial street.
The Palais du Commerce was originally built in two phases between 1885 and 1929, serving as a post office, library and arts school. The building, located in the southern part of the Rennes' city centre, has since lost most of its public activities. MVRDV aims to reintegrate the structure into the urban fabric by activating it with new uses and a design that reflects those new functions.
The project will transform the public square in front of the building and convert the street on the southern side into a landscaped pedestrian area with terraces. Enhancements to the building itself include replacement of all windows with larger panes to improve visibility and transparency. The plan also looks to provide additional commercial space on the ground floor by installing glass storefronts in the arches of the existing arcade.
Perhaps the most obvious alteration to the exterior comes in the form of a grand, winding staircase positioned in the centre of the facade. MVRDV says the embellishment is a "tongue-in-cheek reference" to the lack of an elegant foyer space in the original building, which was an otherwise common characteristic of similarly grand landmarks.
The 18,000 square metres of space includes a 6,000-square-metre extension that together offers space for new shops, a hotel, offices, coworking and events areas, a LEGO museum, a music bar, and a school for the kitchen and hotel industry. This eastern extension, comprised of wood construction, will be clad in black textured ceramic and opaque glass panels in deference to the black slate roofs of the original building and the surrounding vernacular.
"Not only is Palais du Commerce a local landmark, but its transformation will turn the Place de la République into a popular destination and act as a vital catalyst for its surroundings," says Nathalie de Vries, founding partner of MVRDV. "Our design approaches this task with an appreciation of the building's history, but also with an eye towards the future, helping Rennes to achieve its urban vision. The additions that we will make are clearly modern in character, clearly showcasing this design as the latest chapter in the building’s storied history."
Construction is expected to begin in 2022, with completion scheduled for 2025.
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