Métropole Rouen Normandie headquarters were inspired by Monet

by Michelle Koh Morollo on Jan 29, 2018 in Architecture , Top Story
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Inspired by the works of painter Claude Monet, the headquarters of Métropole Rouen Normandie helps create a cohesive identity for a burgeoning port district in the French city

On the left bank of the River Seine in Rouen is a dazzling new building inspired by impressionist painter Claude Monet's famous series depicting the city's cathedral. Designed by Paris-based practice Jacques Ferrier Architecture, the building is the new headquarters of the Métropole Rouen Normandie – an administrative organisation that manages urban planning for 71 municipalities in the Normandy region.


Reminiscent of the works of French impressionists, in particular Claude Money, the building’s innovative skin reflects the light from the surface of the river below and the changing Normandy sky Photo: Luc Noegly

Covered with scale-like panels of subtly tinted glass, the building's dynamic, eye-catching horizontal profile provides a striking yet harmonious contrast to the many structures at the port site where it is located. The oblique angles of the headquarters mimic the silhouettes of cranes or the bows of ships, resulting in a visual language that complements the grand Pont Gustave-Flaubert and the urban waterfront of this part of the city.


Jacque Ferrier describes the terraces as “a sort of wonderful halfway space, somewhere between the building and its second envelope of coloured glass” Photo: Luc Noegly

"The client's brief was to pool the central services of Métropole – which were previously spread over four sites in the city of Rouen – into a singular energy-efficient building, which will stimulate the future growth of the Gustave Flaubert eco-district," says Ferrier, principal of his eponymous firm. "The main idea was to unite all the dynamism along various sites along the port."

The most captivating aspect of the project is no doubt its multi-faceted, transparent double-layered facade. Such schemes are a recurring theme for Ferrier, who often uses filters, porosity, layering and open envelopes in his cutting-edge, contemporary projects such as the headquarters of Champagne house Piper-Heidsieck, in Reims.


The building overlooks the River Seine, the old town and the cathedral Photo: Luc Noegly

The scale-like panels on the facade of Métropole Rouen Normandie are coated with a layer of metal oxide, delivering a colourful, iridescent appearance. Reminiscent of the works of the French impressionist painters – in particular Claude Monet – the building's innovative skin reflects the light from the changing Normandy sky and the surface of the river below. From the inside however, the colours disappear, leaving the light in work areas unaffected.


The scale-like panels of the facade are coated with a layer of metal oxide, which gives them a colourful, iridescent appearance Photo: Luc Noegly

Ferrier says the facade's design was largely inspired by Monet's paintings of the portal of Rouen Cathedral. "In this series of paintings, all seen from the same angle, Monet shows how the same facade constantly changes colour depending on the day, the season, the time," he observes. "So, with the facade of the headquarters of the Métropole, I decided to reproduce this impression using a modern technique with iridescent dichroic solar panels to create the impressionist facade, which constantly changes its colours to blend in with the shifting shades of the sky and the River Seine.”

This is an excerpt from “Impressions of Rouen", an article from the January/February issue of Perspective magazine.

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