University building in France

60 The greatness of any city can be judged by the way in which it responds to change. Prominent urban centers, like London and New York, have been successful in rejigging their urban fabric to offset sharp social, economic, and demographic shifts. The situation in Nantes is no different. The shift from a port economy to a service sector industry, which suffered a sharp decline in the last decade, left large areas of the city center blighted. To accommodate a growing population, the city of Nantes launched an official redevelopment campaign in 2001 to transform its city center into a livable neighborhood. It is within this context of the urban restructuring of the Île de Nantes that the school of architecture is situated. The school’s inclusion in the city is a defining characteristic, one that motivated both the decision to build the new school and its location. Embodying the qualities of its immediate context, the school becomes an urban œuvre: dense in its land use, adaptable and unpredictable in its open-ended structure, and truly sustainable in its resiliency. The school as an extension of the city: The ground floor The continuation of the asphalt street into the school of architecture is illustrative of the building’s character as a dialogue between the school and its urban context. When incorrect ground studies commissioned by the project manager suggested that the soil condition was not stable enough to support the school and that the ground floor would require a concrete base – thus compromising the design’s continuity – development reached a standstill. For Lacaton & Vassal it was imperative that the material of the ground should be of the same urban texture as the street, dissolving the threshold between the institution and the city, which often undermines a building’s ability to function as a public space. For fear of neutralizing the school’s public potential, Lacaton & Vassal also decided against placing the parking lot on the ground floor. After two years, the architects and the The sustainable urban project