An aluminium and glass box sits more than a long stone wall to type the facade of this mining heritage centre in the French village of Banca, by Toulouse studio V2S .
The village in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques area in south-western France has a history of mining that V2S was asked to promote with its design for a visitor centre on the route among Saint-Étienne-de-Baïgorry and the Spanish border.
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The Mining and Metallurgy Heritage Centre and Cafe is situated in the village’s principal square and gives each a tourist attraction and a place for locals to socialise, which had been missing considering that the closure of Banca’s only bar a handful of years previously.
“We developed this project as a lighthouse representing the life of the village and offering a location where men and women could meet,” architect Vincent Candau told Dezeen. “The village is a bit isolated so we wanted to build a new public space for them.”
The building’s kind and materials are influenced by the traditional architecture of the area, which consists of structures sited on terraces carved into the mountainous landscape.
Retaining walls propping up these terraces are a frequent function in the village, and the architects constructed their personal wall to traverse the three-metre incline on the heritage centre’s internet site.
“We felt it was needed to integrate the project into its environment, especially so the residents would adopt it,” Candau explained. “We imagined the building as a continuity of the current supporting walls, which have been part of this hilly landscape for years and years.”
The stone wall follows the line of the road as it curves up the hillside and juxtaposes with the metal and glass box above, which includes the cafe and an data point.
An opening at the decrease end of the retaining wall provides technical access to the museum. The entrance to the cafe is located at the building’s higher finish and opens out to a terrace.
The centre’s upper section is clad in aluminium, created to give it “a smooth and reflective coating”. It incorporates a large window that fills the cafe with daylight, and gives views towards the valley from a line of stools positioned along a raised sill inside.
At night this window creates the desired “lighthouse effect” that enables the creating to be noticed from across the valley.
A straightforward palette of wood, concrete and metal used in their raw state offers the interior a straightforward and robust aesthetic.
Technical amenities such as the kitchen, toilet and a lift are arranged along the embankment side of the upper level to totally free up the rest of the floor space.
Permanent and short-term exhibition halls are located in the subterranean space behind the retaining wall. The lack of daylight and views in this space were considered specifically appropriate to its use as a museum dedicated to the history of the neighborhood mining neighborhood.
The materials used below ground are the same as in the cafe. Info is printed straight onto plywood panels fixed to vertical birch battens.
The centre’s roof is covered in a layer of local stone gravel with a reddish hue intended to match the roofs of the village’s other buildings.
Photography is by Julien Lanoo.
Site plan – Ground floor program – Very first floor plan –