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Elle Decor Italia

OMA builds new engineering school in the French ‘Silicon Valley’

Rem Koolhaas’s celebrated studio realizes their first scientific building outside Paris

Photograph by Vitor Oliveira, Courtesy of OMA

Lab City CentraleSupélec by OMA, Paris

Rem Koolhaas’s legendary studio OMA has newly inaugurated the Lab City CentraleSupélec, a new building hosting research laboratories as well as a new engineering school for the University of Paris-Saclay. The first step towards the construction of a little French Silicon Valley in the Joliot-Curie district, whose ambitious masterplan was also designed by the selfsame Dutch studio. OMA’s project’s generative idea was to shorten the distances (both physical and cultural) separating the university, research and business worlds, by hosting the main players in the tech sector within a single 22ha campus. 


Photograph by Philippe Ruault, Courtesy of OMA


Photograph by Philippe Ruault, Courtesy of OMA


OMA’s project of the new engineering hub of the CentraleSupélec – the university was established in 2015 from the fusion of the two French top engineering schools, the Ecole Centrale and Supélec – is a visionary one, and as such, it is meant to challenge the status quo. In an era of privatization, in which the architect ends up being an instrument in the hands of urban marketers (as Gregotti complained in a recent interview), OMA have forced a challenge upon themselves: namely, that of exploring a new educational, social and civic dimension, as opposed to a context dominated by the strength of mere images, shapes and visual impact. 

The task seems to have been successfully accomplished, and, what is more, with two extra attainments: both deadlines and budget have been scrupulously met – a case more unique than simply rare, as the saying goes. At the start of school in September, France’s future engineers will be able to enter their rates on their digital booklets, while OMA, on the other hand, will add a new creation to their prize record: their first scientific building. 


Photograph by Vitor Oliveira, Courtesy of OMA


Photograph by Vitor Oliveira, Courtesy of OMA


Ellen van Loon and Edouard Pervès from studio OMA have designed the new engineering school as a rigid urban grid, where classes and workshops are hosted within independent blocks. Some architectural volumes are higher than the rest, featuring rooftop gardens and terraces as their cover. The blocks hosting the school’s communal areas, the corridors and the inner covered square, are lighted from above with entirely natural light by employing a transparent, translucent lightweight cover. The building’s main characteristic is an ample hallway cutting diagonally across Lab City, connecting the engineering school with the rest of the campus.

OMA partner-in-charge Ellen van Loon declared: “The project’s most interesting aspect has been the opportunity to invent a new spatial concept for a world top engineering school, at a time when many scientific disciplines must mix and vigorously collaborate with each other in order to remain competitive”.  


Photograph by Vitor Oliveira, Courtesy of OMA


Photograph by Vitor Oliveira, Courtesy of OMA



L'atlante di OMA con tutta la storia, l'architettura e il futuro di palermo



by Pietro Terzini / 4 September 2017


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