“Where the technical problem is overcome, architecture begins” (L. Mies Van der Rohe).
An agricultural context on one hand, and a vast area of residential expansion on the other, have suggested an imposing architecture, well integrated into the landscape as compared to the local architectural models. The volume of the model taken as a reference is the archetype of Alsatian architecture which, repeated over several modules, allows us to obtain a variable volume that is better suited to a building for public use rather than a private building. The principle of subdivision by project phases was the first obstacle to be solved during the project’s preliminary phase. The aim was to be able to reach the best compromise between the interaction of the various functions and the different flows, paying particular attention to the economic aspect. This initial constraint gave rise to the idea of bringing together the entire first phase into a single building, while maintaining a distributive logic that could also be used in the second phase, motivated by the primary wish to allow for the complete integration of the future activities foreseen in the latter phase. The building designed in the second phase will allow for the creation of an open courtyard, which will channel all the flows, taking up the primary principles of the agricultural buildings which are typical of the area. The strongest sign is therefore the cover that – under a single architectural element – unites all the functions, which are articulated on the façade by the series of different bays. These are the characteristics that led to design a single building on the site, concentrating all the functions of the first phase, thus obtaining a multiplicity of benefits. Firstly, compressing the volume and its resulting compactness ensure actual savings from the economic point of view, from a work-site point of view, as well as in terms of environmental sustainability, also considerably reducing management and maintenance costs. As a secondary aspect, it is possible to produce an overall image that is coherent with the surrounding landscape, allowing the building’s architecture to take on strong symbolic value, which can also be identified at the town-planning level, becoming a true landmark in the future landscape. The building’s longitudinal positioning also allows for a number of advantages. First of all, it becomes a filter between the residential layer to the north and the agricultural land to the south, and secondly in its continuity with the present directionality, without fragmenting it. The idea behind this positioning suggested a different treatment for the two façades, allowing for strong focus on sun exposure, light control and natural ventilation. The south façade is compact and imposing, especially thanks to the integration of technical elements such as the sectional doors and the protruding roofing, creating a relationship that could initially appear ‘hermetic’, but which on the contrary is much more dynamic, giving expression to the façade and emphasizing the connection with the landscape. During the summer, as it is placed to the south, the cladding – made of solid blue-grey folded sheet metal and micro-perforated appropriately – makes it possible to shield the building from direct sunlight and, conversely, in the afternoon hours it allows the light to filter, making the movement of people working in the building stand out. By contrast, in the winter this orientation makes it possible to absorb solar energy. The large canopy becomes the unifying element of the entire project, channelling and protecting all the flows of workers outside the building, transforming the volume into a true architectural sign of reference for the entire city of Rixheim. Conversely, the north façade, thanks to the presence of a translucent material such as polycarbonate, allows the building to receive indirect light, which is perfect for the working environment; this is a material with very high thermal and acoustic performance, but whose aesthetic effect on the viewer is simple and homely. Thanks to polycarbonate, the north façade thus becomes an element of mediation between the internal functions and the pre-existing context. The choice of this translucent material allows the building to exploit, every day, natural light for the rooms inside, and then turn into a sort of magic lantern during the evening, emphasising the presence of the municipal technical centre. In this manner, we depart from the usual idea of industrial buildings and manage to create a new image suited to a contemporary architecture which is attentive to the future.