Located at the edge of France, Dominique Coulon & Associés is an architectural firm of national and international renown. With a legacy 25 years in the making, the agency has cemented its reputation for the quality of public facilities it designs with a wide and varied range of programmes. Dominique Coulon & Associés has a confessed signature style of oblique, bold volumes that distort depending on the viewing angle. They employ a highly intuitive and philosophical approach as they develop projects with site relevancy: combining contrast and complexity. Their signature style consists of massive yet dynamically interlocking elements, grounded in research about light, materials and colour, based on a graphically balanced plan. Spatial quality and natural light are fundamental to every project, where space is always controlled by precise geometry.  

1. Crèche in Buhl

The nursery in Buhl is situated on the edge of town, surrounded by agricultural landscape and marking the entrance to a small village. The strictly rectangular plan is an arrangement of successive crowns that contain project elements and add depth to them. The building core is a double-height monolith that plays with natural light like a kaleidoscope. This cubic volume combines a host of facadés ranging in colour from pink to red, shaping the space. This spatial arrangement offers views of the Vosges mountains. 

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2. Henri Dutilleux Conservatoire in Belfort

On the periphery of Belfort, demarcating the boundary between built and green space, the conservatory appears to amalgamate substantial volumes of concrete with an unexpected surface. Splatter-painted in two shades of blue in a Pollockian style, It catches the light to lend the concrete monolith a mysterious presence. The volumes fit into each other like a puzzle; hollows in the massing create relationships between the levels.

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3. André Malraux Schools in Montpellier

As part of a holistic development plan, André Malraux School Complex unites a kindergarten and a primary school. By implementing playful, horizontal forms, Dominique Coulon & associés create a contrast with the surrounding housing. The concept of the three pivoting levels bears a likeness to the happy chaos reminiscent of children’s stacking toys. 

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4. Simone Veil School Complex in Colombes

The Simone Veil Group of Schools, built on three levels is in the dense urban fabric of the new eco-neighbourhood. On a small plot of land, the thick-walled building has voids dotted across its surface that serve as facets, attracting light and reflecting it. Bright colours transform the space, expanding it to create a place for educational stimulation.

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5. Théodore Gouvy Theatre in Freyming-Merlebach

The Théodore Gouvy Theatre is part of an initiative to relieve the social and economic difficulties in Freyming-Merlebach that came from the downfall of the industrial era. The stacked volumes are animated to capture the visitor’s interest by directing them to the entrance and providing glimpses of the cultural vitality within.

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6. Covered Market and Exhibition Area in Schiltigheim

The distillery turned butchers’ cooperative rehabilitation is part of a municipal initiative to regenerate the town’s urban fabric. This plan achieves its goals by incorporating a mixed-use program with market and exhibition spaces. The design process utilises the concept of stratification. It unifies the contemporary expansion with its surroundings while highlighting the constructional and aesthetic qualities of the existing buildings on the site. 

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7. AllendePerformance Hall and Rehearsal Studios in Mons-en-Barœul

The Allende Performance Hall is an autonomous urban landmark in the town of Mons-en-Barœul. The project derives its essence from its context, much like many of Dominique’s designs. Its simple volumes blend seamlessly with the surrounding high-rise buildings. Pivoting the building volume of the large rehearsal room creates an interior space that unites all the elements of the project.

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8. Cultural and youth centre in Sarlat

The design outcome derives from the site context; therefore, it blends with its surrounding built spaces and yet effortlessly maintains a subtle dialogue with its context. Fragmented volumes arranged as staggered rows of voids, enable the design to retain its effect of depth. The design goal was to ensure the building maintains its flexibility to reinstate autonomy to the user. 

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9. Olympe de Gouges school group in Gidy

The school exemplifies the design of modern architecture in a rural space by not reinstating parameters set for urban architecture. It does this by applying volumetric arrangements that make the building appear smaller than it is. It provides more flexibility of expansion to the building by avoiding areas with a single function.

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10. Les Closeaux in Clamart

The Gymnasium is in a Parisian suburb from the 1950s. The volumetric design of the building blends it with its context. Fragmenting the programmes creates a displacement between the two levels, offering a view of the building core and its gardens. A continuous canopy adds to the perspective by distorting and twisting the facade lines. 

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11. Administrative Complex in Strasbourg

Strasbourg’s administrative complex has evolved from a military building to a hospital to what it is today. The program design involves minimal intervention; this is achieved by highlighting the structural anomalies and enhancing the existing facilities—brightly coloured tunnels created by the columns that are remnants of earlier technology highlight circulation routes.

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12. Office and Housing Complex in Strasbourg

On a 120 square meter vacant plot that was too small to interest any promoters, Dominique Coulon & associés designed a building with high energy performances, bio-sourced materials, and mixed-use programming. The building harmonises with the various contradictions in its surroundings. A scorched wood facade with varied hallows masks the interconnection of programmes within; Instead, it allows the onlooker to appreciate each aspect of an architectural office space individually.

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13. Housing for Elderly People in Huningue

The housing for the elderly capitalises on being located on the banks of the Rhine. The common areas and the hall are oriented towards the river so the residents can enjoy the choreography of passing boats. The warmly coloured brick exterior houses generously spaced collective living areas that receive abundant natural light.

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14. Inter-Generation Centre in Venarey-Les Laumes

The program stretches alongside the railway line of a small village in Venarey-Les Laumes. The Inter-Generation Centre is a designated centre for rural excellence. It utilised multiple angles of lights, and different colours to unite the diverse mixed-use programs together in a single dynamic unit. 

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15. Bloom Coffee shop in Petit-France

The Bloom coffee shop is in a 1950s era building in the heart of Petite-France, shaded by a beautiful lime tree. The lime tree inspired the green palette used to furnish the outdoors of the cafe. In a bright and colorful district, the bright white homogenous shop stands out to prospective visitors. Design unification is achieved using arches and rounded shapes that occur throughout the building.

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Author

Aasiya is an aspiring creative professional with a Masters in Architecture and Urban Design from Columbia University GSAPP. She is an avid feminist, climate change activist, and an amateur guitarist. The excitement of knowing that proper design will help meet an individual’s requirements is the only sentiment she holds as her own.

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