The New Regime
When Louis XVI was on the throne, this building was a stable—now it's an office designed by Jung Architectures and Plum Buro for Paris ad agency BETC
Ian Phillips -- Interior Design, 11/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
Jung Architectures and Plum Buro designed BETC Euro RSCG's annex in Paris. On the ground level, the steel Splügen Bräu pendant fixtures by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni contrast with the asphalt floor.
Arne Jacobsen chairs furnish a meeting room in print production. The mezzanine balustrade's panels are perforated steel. Plum Buro found vintage handles for storage units on the ground level. When the bridge arrives at the print-production department, flooring shifts from oak to rubber. Aluminum pendant fixtures hang in a postproduction meeting room. The employee coffee bar is near the back of the ground level. Jung lengthened the top floor's skylight; illumination also comes from swing-arm fixtures and desk lamps by Enzo Mari. Aluminum unifies the Jean Nouvel desks and Fred Scott chairs. For the rear meeting room, Plum Buro made blinds from canvas used for Ferrari trucks. Unprocessed felt wraps the staff's lockers, lining the space. To connect the two sides of the mezzanine, Jung built steel bridges with stainless-steel balustrades. The wrought-iron structural columns date from the 19th century. Coir matting clads the reception cabin. It sits in the foyer that Frédéric Jung created by enclosing the former stable's cobblestone courtyard. Ineke Hans's Ordinary tables and stools of recycled plastic furnish the lounge running down the center of the ground level. For the three adjacent recording studios, Jung designed accordion-style doors of steel and glass; the accent fabric on the sofa is by Charles and Ray Eames.
For Frédéric Jung, it must have been déjà vu. The last time Jung Architectures had embarked on a renovation for Paris advertising agency BETC Euro RSCG, the building was a onetime department store that had been turned into a warehouse—with every single window blocked up. "It was a sort of black hole," recalls Jung, who proceeded to reopen a central atrium and pierce one wall with a gigantic window.
When BETC outgrew that headquarters and hired Jung to take on an annex, across the street in the 10th Arrondissement, he faced a similar conundrum. The four-story 16,000-square-foot structure had been built as the stable of a mansion in the 18th century, had housed small industrial workshops in the 19th, and had become a clothing factory in the 20th. By the time Jung walked in, it had lain empty, like the department store, for a decade or so. "There were suits piled up everywhere," he says.
But not much light to see them by. The carriage entry on the front facade and a grimy skylight running down the center of the peaked roof were the only openings in the masonry of the narrow 260-foot-long building. Luckily, while working on the plans, Jung discovered that the former stable and the old mansion were still legally on the same piece of property, which meant he could open up the wall on that side—something that would not have been possible with separate parcels.
He proceeded to install two rows of windows in the blank sidewall as well as glassing in the cobblestone front courtyard to create a foyer and lengthening the skylight up top. And the rays of sun streaming in certainly make life more pleasant for the 100 employees now based here. (In a radical move, BETC has brought together three departments that traditionally don't rub shoulders in a French ad agency: art buying, media planning and consulting, and TV and print production.)
Because regulations prohibited offices on the ground floor, Jung used one side for recording studios. The three studios have glass doors that slide open accordion-style, a response to requests from staff. "People told me that they hate feeling like they're in a fishbowl," he says. "Now, when they need to shut themselves off for acoustic reasons, they can. Otherwise, they can open up." Opposite the studios, he placed a coffee bar, photocopy rooms, restrooms, stairwells, elevators, and equipment for the HVAC system.
Both the studios and the support facilities are relatively shallow spaces, projecting only 10 feet from the perimeter wall to nearly touch the two rows of wrought-iron structural columns that run from front to back. (Keen on preserving this 19th-century element of the building's history, Jung spent a month reclaiming the metalwork from layer upon layer of red paint.) These double-height columns also define the depth of the side mezzanines that the architect created by demolishing the second floor. "It was basically falling apart, and the ceiling was less than 6 feet," he explains. The effect on the ground level is that of a broad street—in fact, the flooring is asphalt. "You could drive a car from one end to the other," BETC creative director and president Rémi Babinet says of the central area filled with gray-painted recycled-plastic picnic tables and stools.
The furniture came courtesy of Plum Buro partners Catherine Geel and Indiana Collet-Barquero, also Jung's collaborators on the BETC headquarters. The idea for the tables and seating was "Berlin beer hall," Geel says. "Everything is very sturdy." However, Plum Buro's most important reference overall was industrial, in keeping with the building's past. Just like in factories, vertical surfaces are defined by bright colors. Note the recording studios' red doors, the mezzanine balustrade's orange panels, and Jean Nouvel's green file cabinets. There's even a row of sunny-yellow steel storage units holding hundreds of videotapes, the product of campaigns for Air France, Evian, and Louis Vuitton.