With the restructuring and expansion of the canteen/restaurant on the Crous university campus in Cergy-Pontoise, France, the GRAIL architecture studio has given new life to a pre-existing building built in 1993 inside the large François Mitterrand park.
The building occupies an area of the park located at the intersection of the two main roads that connect the Paris-Seine university sector and the Val d’Oise prefecture. If the pre-existing structure already enjoyed a privileged position in the landscape context of quality and public interest of the park, nevertheless, as pointed out by the architects, the building suffered from a lack of visibility and interior spaces not used to their full potential due to the limited relationship with the outside world. The restructuring project created by the GRAIL studio has therefore endeavored to allow the refectory to regain an important role for university life and for campus services. The new building becomes a strong component of the park, fitting harmoniously into its context and enhancing the landscape qualities of the site.
Above all, the architects chose to highlight the intrinsic qualities of the original building. From the pre-existing building of 2000 square meters of the refectory, the architects recovered all the elements judged to be of quality from an architectural point of view. Not only the precast concrete structure, but also the flexible building system, providing a multitude of features such as paths, stairs and openings. In addition, the restaurant’s offer has been completed with a new extension called the “kiosk“.
The new refectory is spread over two floors, directly accessible from the park on one level thanks to the topography of the land. Part of the lower level is thus underground and reserved for kitchen workspaces. The dining room, meanwhile, is located on the opposite side. Thanks to the changes made by the GRAAL strong> studio, this space can now benefit from a stronger relationship with the outside and more light penetrating from the large glass facade. As well as enlarging the existing openings, the architects also removed a retaining wall and remodeled the sloping exterior garden. In addition, they deliberately kept the material quality of this volume to use it as a mineral “base” on which the new lighter body of the factory is grafted. The glazed facade and the garden highlight the restructured refectory, now more apparent in the context of the park and inviting passers-by to enter. The interior has been organized in three phases: a relaxation area, the dining area and the kitchen area. Despite the low ceilings, a predominant palette of light colors, a judicious choice of materials and the architectural solutions adopted provide a spacious and comfortable space. The upper floor houses the new extension, called “kiosk“. On the volume of the restaurant, the architects designed a transparent pavilion with a large terrace that opens towards the park and the surrounding nature. The kiosk is architecturally coherent with the restaurant, with its glazed facade governed by support elements The pavilion thus functionally completes the services of the refectory, offering new possibilities of interaction with the surrounding vegetal context and allowing the structure to become more visible on an urban scale, becoming a new landmark for the park.
Images courtesy of GRAAL Architecture, photo by Clément Guillaume
Project name: Restructuring of a university canteen / University canteen Cergy-Pontoise — France
Customer: CROUS of Versailles
Location: Cergy-Pontoise — France
Area: 2,310 m²
Project: GRAAL Architecture
Team: I+A Structures Laboratory (structure); Choulet (fluids); Eco+build (economist); Arwytec (kitchen); 2IDF (civil engineering); SLAM (acoustic)
Photo: Clement Guillaume