‘Priztker Prize winner in 2004, the architect Zaha Hadid, and André Vezinhet, Head of the French Département of Hérault, inaugurated on September 13th 2012 a remarkable new building: pierrevives.
pierresvives is situated in Montpellier, France’s eighth-largest and most dynamic city. It has been conceived as an innovative cultural offer, to meet the needs of the area’s significant economic growth and increasing population of over 1,000 inhabitants per month.
For the Département of Hérault, whose capital, Montpellier, has recently been named one of the New York Times’ ‘Best Places to visit in 2012’, the commissioner and the architect have planned to concentrate three civic institutions in a single location: the public archives, a multimedia library and Hérault Sport.
Following the call for submissions launched by Département of Hérault in 2002, Zaha Hadid understood at once the specific requirements of the endeavour, and her submission was quickly singled out. Her futuristic structure, a sprawling edifice of swirly white concrete layers and green-tinted glass, takes on the architectural challenge of accommodating an ever increasing public whilst ensuring the conservation of valuable historical archives.
pierresvives building thus embodies a distinctly contemporary vision of culture and public access, actively contributing to the area’s growing reputation as a paradise for contemporary architecture. Hadid’s building will be the cornerstone of the pierresvives ecodistrict whose construction will take place over the coming years.
With this inauguration, pierresvives becomes the third project built by the now internationally acclaimed Anglo-Iraqi architect in France, after the car park and Terminus Hoenheim-North in
Strasbourg and the CMA/CGM Tower in Marseille.’
‘The pierresvives building for the department de l’Herault is the unification of three institutions – the archive, the library and the sports department – within a single envelope. These various parts combine to create a building with a strong single identity when viewed at a distance, but as one moves closer, the division into three parts becomes apparent. The building has been developed using functional and economic logic: the resultant design reminiscent of a large tree-trunk that has been laid horizontally. The archive is located at the solid base of the trunk, followed by the slightly more porous library with the sports department and its well-lit offices on far end where the trunk bifurcates and becomes much lighter. ‘Branches’ project vertically off the main trunk to articulate points of access to the various institutions.
This longitudinal division of serviced and servicing spaces is maintained along the full length of pierresvives. The front of the building contains all the public functions of each institution, linked by a linear lobby with an exhibition space in the centre. Above this connective ground level, the three institutions remain strictly separated, each with its own core for internal vertical circulation. On arrival at the main entrance, visitors are directed from the lobby to the educational spaces of the archives on ground level; or via lifts and escalator to the main public artery on level one. This artery is articulated all along the facades as a recessed glass strip, with the reading rooms of the archive and library are immediately accessible. Central in this artery and therefore located at the heart of the building, are the main public facilities shared between the three institutions: the auditorium and meeting rooms. These important public spaces form the primary central volume of the grand cantilevering canopy above the entrance.’