2014

MCHAP

Communaute des Communes Restoration & Additions

Elile Romney, Marc Jalet

Grand-Bourg, Guadeloupe

November 2008

PRIMARY AUTHOR

Emile ROMNEY Marc JALET

CONTRIBUTING AUTHOR

AUTHOR

Communauté de Communes de Marie-Galante

PHOTOGRAPHER

Emile ROMNEY Brian LEWIS

OBJECTIVE

The island of Marie-Galante has always been a place of traditional cultures for the entire population. The CCMG's officials wanted their new headquarters to be able to integrate this culture, but also offer new perspectives. It was important that the resulting building be a symbol of the impetus that the CCMG's officials wanted to foster in order to open the island of Marie-Galante outwards and foster a new economic dynamic. The contemporary form of the additional buildings and a reinterpretation of the traditional « gaulettes » were the basis for the formal and architectural expression. On an urban scale, by aligning with the existing building the project created a space between the historical locale and the seaside recently fitted with a marina. This opening toward the ocean has given a central presence to the process of coastal development as projected by the city. The headquarters of the CCMG had to be a welcoming building for the entire population and all visitors, both inside and out. Consequently the architecture, even if it is voluntary, is not imposing. The light filters through the facades and through the roofs, creating an atmosphere of a forest canopy through which simple materials create a welcoming environment and the interior gardens are an open invitation to exchange. From anywhere within the building the city is visible and accessible, as are personal interactions. Symbolic and creative on the outside, the project is intimate and cozy on the inside: the perfect picture for Marie-Galante.

CONTEXT

The island of Marie-Galante comprises three small cities with a common administrative and technical structure: the Community of Communes of Marie-Galante (CCMG). The main office was located in this small old building that has previously served for many different uses: barracks, hospital, school, administration ... this building is therefore part of the memory of the place and the people. Due to its modest original dimensions, and considering the magnitude of the desired expansion program, the building could easily have been demolished. Therefore, how can we reconcile the project with what already exists? How can we achieve the new expectations without erasing the existing traces of history in this city? Three boxes of glass, wrapped up in woven wood, are aligned with the same dimensions as the existing nineteenth century building to be preserved. Like three containers their volume is limited, simple and homogeneous in order to preserve the old building’s predominance. These three boxes symbolize the three municipalities of the island, in harmony with the essence of the new building's function, to represent the island of Marie-Galante in its entirety. The other symbolic dimension is the envelope of braided wood, which evokes the "gaulettes" (braided guava branches), an indigenous material the slaves of Marie-Galante once used to build their huts. Once inside, the space is accented with "gaulette" panels, subduing the light while protecting the lobby, the spaces and the interior gardens. The new structures are transparent, so that the old building appears as a solid and stable reference.

PERFORMANCE

In addition to the indoor atmosphere, the spaces allow for a great degree of independence among its various functions. As such, both the meeting room and the lobby are in high demand for various activities. Consequently, the initial administrative function was quickly enhanced by cultural activities. The main facades open on pivoting panels so that large public events may be held. For example, every year the entire building welcomes the Jazz Festival of the island of Marie-Galante and a TV studio is hosted in the lobby. The most important meetings on the island are now being held at the CCMG: the building has become a visual, spatial and social reference for everyone on the island of Marie-Galante. By the features it offers and its "gaulettes", which convey a clearly identifiable unique visual effect, the building of the Community of Communes has situated itself in the island’s collective imagination and, slowly but surely, has become an identifying symbol of Marie-Galante.