Founded in 1991, Parisian architecture firm Manuelle Gautrand Architecture is known for its bold and colorful expression in a wide range of projects, born out of the firm’s ethos to “re-enchant” the city and “to bring emotion, to reinvent, to innovate and propose an unexpected answer.” The work of the firm has been widely appreciated, making Manuelle Gautrand, the first female laureate of the prestigious European Prize in Architecture in 2017. Their projects can be easily distinguished from a pile for their striking façades and ingenious programmatic organization.

Here are 15 projects ranging from housing to cultural centers showcasing the best of the office’s work:

1. The Belaroïa 

A small site next to the Gare Saint Roch station in Montpellier is home to one of Gautrand’s most iconic and recent buildings. A stack of sharp-angled volumes interweaves a three-star hotel, a four-star hotel, a seminar venue, a restaurant, and apartments in a hybrid program giving the city’s skyline a unique character with its perforated homogeneous façade, turning a challenging brief into a sight to behold.

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2. Gaumont-Pathé Alésia Cinémas

The upgrading of the ‘Alesia’ cinema building allows Gautrand to redefine the typology into a cultural center for the 21st century with a movie screen for a façade. The façade is made of 12 ribbon-like bands of glass and metal cladding, fitted with LED modules to create an interactive grid for a screen. This allows for the urban space in front to become a part of the theatre inside. The new interior organization of stacking the theatres creates a free-flowing and transparent public space.

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3. Hipark Hotel 

The Hipark hotel is situated on a narrow site next to student residences but it is undeniably memorable because of its color and form. Making most of its plot restrictions, the form angles, and tapers, creating a view to the neighboring Philharmonic hall designed by Jean Nouvel while becoming a landmark itself. The dynamic form is further accentuated by hues of green bands on the building’s edifice.

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4. The Forum 

Near the French-Swiss border, the “Forum” in Saint Louis houses facilities designed to host multiple sporting and cultural activities. The building combines two large adaptable spaces with smaller functions in a single space broken up into thirteen gabled roof volumes, inspired by its surrounding buildings. The entire mass is wrapped by a perforated metal cladding in a custom made orange hue, giving a homogenous quality to a large volume.

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5. Comedie de Bethune – National Drama Theater

The original building of the national drama theater in the city of Bethune was saddled with an extension that did not meet the program requirements. Manuelle Gautrand Architecture takes a clinical approach in an expansion strategy of both the original and the extended structures that add, rearrange, and reorganize programmatic units into public and private not only to meet the guidelines but the inhabitants’ wishes. This approach is evident in a striking façade that maintains a purple-red color for the original and the old extension while starkly contrasting the new addition in black paneling. The building-two parts in one whole make a visual statement about the old and new architecture.

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6. Galeries Lafayette

A landmark in the city of Metz, the Galeries Lafayette building has been central to the architectural image of the city and the brand. Manuelle Gautrand was commissioned to upgrade this building for a new age of commerce. The approach employed maintains the stone-clad fascia of the original building on its upper floors, whilst transforming the lower levels into a transparent realm with easy access and circulation. At the junction of these elements comes the pièce de résistance- an ethereal red canopy made up by pleated glass, creating a shaded space and scaling down the massiveness of the building for the pedestrians.

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7. Origami

An office building in the center of Paris allows Manuelle Gautrand Architecture to exercise their penchant for impressive building skins. Playing on the idea of transparency and framing views around the city’s landmarks, the second skin of glass with a screen-printed marble pattern is folded like origami creating a sophisticated urban gesture to be appreciated both outside and inside the building. The building’s interior balances the bold façade with an intimate garden and soothing contemporary interior detailing.

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8. Lille Modern Art Museum 

For the extension and refurbishment of the existing modern art museum in Lille, Gautrand opted for a fluid continuity fanning out into five volumes in stark contrast to the original building designed by Roland Simonet. The addition in white as opposed to the red brick of the original museum, fragments light through small apertures much like a screen, protecting the artworks inside. The five-volume addition creates dramatic interior spaces with its sharp angles whilst adding a sculptural form to the building’s landscape.

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9. Cité des Affaires

In Saint-Étienne, several government offices become a permeable civic space at Cite des Affaires by Manuelle Gautrand. Arranging the massing to create portals of different scales creates entrances and spaces encouraging pedestrians to occupy the civics of the open areas within the built environment. A colorful yellow façade on the inside paired with an opaque and transparent panel skin on the exterior creates a landmark for the city for people to use and communicate with.

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10. Swing Rive Gauche 

Swing Rive Gauche is a 170 unit green housing block in Toulouse’s Cartoucherie neighborhood. The composition of 21 different volumes of varying height and scale is connected by terraces and walkways giving porosity and transparency to a massive housing block. Typical to Gautrand the façade is composed by “happy” details in metallic sheets: balconies and large windows for “day areas” and smaller windows with a half-moon shape for “night areas”

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11. Le Monolithe Building 

As part of a unique scheme in the LyonIsland Project, Le Monolithe is a high-density mixed-use project developed in different architectural styles by five different architects.

The part of the whole assigned to Manuelle Gautrand is an office block designed as a sculptural volume looking out to the large central park above the internal street. Large mirror sheets form helices form a skin on the building mimicking the flowers of the landscape, whilst reflecting them onto the building.

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12. C42 Citroën 

The flagship store for the iconic French carmaker Citroën in Paris’ Champs-Élysées is a striking example of an urban statement by an elevation. Manuelle Gautrand designs a sculptural volume using glass in an origami-like cascade colored by diaphanous white and red film creating dramatic visual fields both in the interior and exterior. The display and the shopping experience in the interior are further energized by a vertical circulation system spiraling around the column of cars displayed one on top of each other and taking advantage of the city’s views and vistas.

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13. Gaîté Lyrique 

A digital arts and contemporary music center was born out of Gautrand overhauling the Théâtre de la Gaîté in Paris, creating a cultural space for a conscious contemporary audience. While maintaining the ornate edifice of the original building, Gautrand rearranges and rebuilds the interiors. Embracing futuristic furniture and lighting to create interactive gallery spaces, theatre halls, exhibition spaces, and more, space inside allows for streamlined circulation and diverse programmatic output.

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14. Edison Lite

The winning project of the “REINVENTED PARIS” competition, the Edison Lite is a housing block of 25 “custom-made” units designed by Manuelle Gautrand. This project combines a unique program of housing units designed with inputs from their future owners and 30 percent shared living spaces like terrace gardens, open kitchen, and workshop cellar. The scheme is particularly noteworthy for its green building solutions, especially its plant-covered façade.

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15. Hyde park housing 

Still, in construction, the Hyde Park Housing is a 400 unit housing development. Designed in 9 distinct volumes called “houses” as a superblock around a garden, each volume has a distinct material palette, fenestration pattern, height, scale, apartment type, and character. The uniqueness of the project comes from its organization of such a variety of apartment types in a single arrangement that feels harmonious – almost like a city itself with different buildings having unique apartments with a variety of terraces.

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Ekam Sahni
Author

Ekam Singh Sahni is an architect with a penchant for writing and finding a sense of feeling in every human activity. He thinks of design as a primary attribute of human existence: from moving a chair in one's room to building an island in the middle of nowhere.

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