An institution at the heart of the challenges of tomorrow
The Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations is one of the key institutions of the French State system. Created in 1816 to protect the savings of the citizens of France, it is now at a crossroads between the defense of public interest and participation to the global economy. A State-owned group, it fulfils missions that support public policy conducted by the government and local authorities, while carrying out market activities. Its action focuses on the following strategic priorities: housing, businesses and SMEs, the digital economy, universities, and sustainable development. In anticipation of the bicentenary of its foundation in 2016, the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations organized in 2009 a public competition of architecture to modernize the now obsolete reception spaces of its headquarters, located in the Rue de Lille and Quai Anatole France in the 7th arrondissement of Paris.
A contemporary approach to heritage
PCA-STREAM won the competition with a project balancing the search for a more contemporary image on the one hand and the preservation of its built heritage in a very sensitive urban context on the other hand. The architectural project aims to streamline the ways the reception spaces operate as well as the many functions that are performed by the Caisse des Dépôts. The exceptional location of this building in the heart of the historic Paris, adjacent to the iconic Musée d’Orsay and overlooking the Seine, set the seal on a balanced attitude aiming to confer a contemporary expression of a classical form on the new headquarters.
Clear and balanced spaces
PCA-STREAM imagined a cross-shaped layout, both simple and intelligible, that is characterized by a grand passageway that services the counters, the bank, and the reception halls. The façades on Rue de Lille and Quai Anatole France are renovated; the Cour d’honneur is restored. Given that the place has two addresses, PCA-STREAM chose to polarize the access to the building and to simplify flows by using two separate entrances that elude the symmetry that one would expect on the Seine side. Magnified by the treatment of the Cour d’honneur, the entrance from the quay is returned to pedestrians and opens widely on the outside via the Anatole France Gallery, a future exhibition and reception hall. The public will continue to cross through the block, but through a route that is clarified thanks to a large vaulted passageway that borrows its form from the classical design of the hôtels particuliers that it connects to. This passage offers optimum fluidity. It welcomes visitors from any of its two entrances and restores the luster of the building by reinterpreting this characteristic Parisian form and its semicircular arch, which became iconic of the intervention. A pedestrian thoroughfare, a dynamic place of exchange and economic activity, the typology of the passageway is completely in tune with the use of the ground floor of the institution. Three large oval bays are set into this passageway and are artificially lit in a way that mirrors the natural light of the glass roof: the ambient light in the passageway reacts to cloud shadows, perpetuating a natural light cycle.
A symbolic work that has become iconic
Beyond its architectural intervention, PCA-STREAM wished to express the identity of the institution through its design of modern grilles affixed on the large bays on Quai Anatole France and Rue de Lille. This medium embodies the values that the institution promotes—sustainability, long-term thinking, security, and trust. The gold-plated steel grilles invite passers-by to gaze into the building and to discover what lies within, thus addressing the desire expressed by Caisse des Dépôts to be more open and transparent—indeed, there is very little public awareness of the institution. The grilles form a unifying membrane that also spreads to the inside of the passage, since their pattern is to be found on the screen-printed glazing. This work was carried out following the design of an ideogram for the institution. It is formed in part based on a variation on a set of initials (C-D-C), and reinterprets the floral and symbolic motifs of the historical coat of arms of the Caisse des Dépôts. It is decked out in fine metalwork in the large openings of the building. The balance established by the Caisse des Dépôts between collective interest, which it protects, and private interest, which it develops, is suggested by the harmonious combination of the organic blooming of fleur-de-lis and the sternness of the quatrefoil. Considerable thought was given to this creation, and discussions involved the representatives of the institution, a designer (Annonciade Perron), a specialist in discursive strategy (Pauline Merlet), specialized craftsmen, and State heritage architects (Architectes des Bâtiments de France). The project has now come to fruition and is hailed as offering an emblematic image representing the institution.
Picturing the construction work
Photographs by Jean-Philippe Mesguen.
|Client||Caisse des Dépôts|
|Program||Restructuration of the new public spaces of the Caisse des Dépôts|
|Location||56 rue de Lille, 75006 Paris|
|Surface area||4 800 m²|
|Cost||15 M€ HT|
|Status||Completed in 2013|